Spring-Summer 2005

Learn & Serve with CTCNet — Youth Visions for Stronger Neighborhoods

What do youth living in the Asian-American community of Minneapolis , on a Native American reservation in California , and in a rural county in the Mississippi Delta all have in common? They have all committed to learn more about the communities in which they live, and to become involved in transforming them for the better.

Since 2004, CTCNet's Youth Visions for Stronger Neighborhoods, funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service Learn and Serve America program, has made youth civic participation possible by supporting CTCs in their use of multimedia tools and training to involve high school youth in community decision-making.

In 2005, a diverse group of eight grantee sites received $22,000 each to support program implementation, engaging youth in community decision-making across urban centers and very rural areas. The 2005 sites include:

Youth Visions for Stronger Neighborhoods enables youth to assume the roles of urban planner and community developer, as they identify neighborhood needs by interviewing residents and business owners, mapping local assets, and conducting additional research through newspapers, the U.S. Census, and other online resources.

2004 Youth Vision grantee Community TV Networks in Chicago
Rachel Davis from 2004 Youth Vision grantee Community TV Networks (Chicago, IL) discussing content ideas with youth program participant.

Armed with this knowledge, the youth will recommend ways in which local assets can be targeted to meet community priorities. Through the use of multimedia tools, the youth will then present their ideas at community meetings they have organized, and educate and engage local officials around these solutions.

After their Youth Visions program is complete, each grantee site will host a capacity-building workshop for other youth-serving organizations in their regions to learn how to use multimedia tools to promote youth engagement in their communities.

According to Olivia Robinson, Youth Visions coordinator at The Ark, the program has afforded youth with the opportunity to combine creativity with community involvement as they examine issues of teen nightlife, arts, and housing. "Though we are still in the beginning stages," says Robinson, "the students are already learning about the multiple views within our neighborhood related to their topic. It's opening our eyes."

Youth Visions grantee sites are provided with a flexible model curriculum and related educational resources for teaching skills such as critical thinking, public speaking, asset mapping, media literacy, and multimedia use. Grantees are encouraged to share their own ideas and adapt curriculum activities to meet their particular needs. Feedback from the grantees is then used to improve upon the curriculum, which will ultimately be provided to the broader field.

An integral element in Youth Visions success and continuous development is an "extranet," allowing grantee sites and CTCNet staff to track progress, comment on curriculum activities, access resources, and share program ideas in a supportive, easy to access electronic framework. Participating youth have their own website, through which they can post to blogs, highlight key web resources, and interact with one another across program sites. Both websites will become publicly accessible in 2006.

Youth Visions coordinators and youth participants from several sites are attending the 14th Annual Community Technology Conference, June 17-19 in Cleveland, OH. The youth will help document the conference, and showcase their final multimedia presentations at the Pre-Conference Day on June 16th.

The Youth Visions program will continue in 2006, with funding available to support eight additional sites. The Request for Proposals for the next round of funding will be available in Fall 2005.

Tara Kumar Tara Kumar is a CTCNet Program Associate.


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