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For those that aren’t aware, can you explain the field of Youth studies?
Youth Studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the development, history, culture, psychology, and politics of youth. This field studies not only specific cultures of young people, but also their relationships, roles, and responsibilities throughout the larger societies which they occupy. The Advanced Certificate and the Master of Arts in Youth Studies at CUNY SPS pairs research about youth and youth issues with building concrete knowledge, skills, and capacities for those who oversee, run, or work in youth programs.
Why do you think there was a need to develop degree and certificate programs that focus on this field?
I think there was a need to develop a degree and certificate program in this field because the field is growing at a rapid rate. Several after-school programs, community based organizations, and juvenile justice programs have been created to serve a specific population of 12 – 24 year olds. The out-of-school and out-of-work rates of youth in this age group are staggering in some of New York City’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. The amount of support they need in order to become thriving and successful adults is evident now more than ever. The research that has been gathered and evaluated over the last 40 years in this area has proven that students who feel supported during this time of development are much more likely to stay engaged in school and persist onto college and careers they are passionate about. Empowering and educating a strong workforce of caring individuals to lead these programs is necessary in order for these youth to actualize their fullest potential.
How does your current work relate to the field of youth studies? What is the most gratifying aspect of your job? What is the most difficult aspect?
I work for a non-profit organization called Comprehensive Development, Inc (CDI) which offers support to three different high schools in the NYC area towards helping young adults secure a better future for themselves and their families through individualized one-on-one support and counseling for college and careers. As the Site Coordinator in the College and Career Office at City-As-School HS, I work with 2 other College Advisors in helping students ages 16-22 gain better life skills, critical thinking skills and the soft skills needed to become productive young adults. We help students prepare a viable post-secondary plan towards higher education or towards sustainable careers that can help them create a quality life. The most gratifying aspect of my job is having the opportunity to plant seeds of what’s not only possible but realistic for my students to achieve. I get to help students impact their future in a positive way every single day. Being someone they can count on, trust and depend on for support from start to finish is so rewarding. They help me want to be a better person for them. The most difficult aspect of my work is probably not being able to help everyone as much as I’d like because of the limited amount of time in the work day. Knowing that students are looking to you for direction in figuring out their next steps is a large responsibility that I don’t take lightly.
Why did you choose to pursue the Advanced Certificate/MA in Youth Studies? Why at CUNY SPS?
I chose to pursue the Advanced Certificate in Youth Studies because I felt that it would help me understand how to connect with young people at their level in a greater capacity. I knew that the classes in this program would cover strategies that would help me be more impactful in working with this unique population. Although I had the professional know-how regarding the enrollment process that students undergo when pursuing their higher education, I had not worked specifically with young adults in a high school setting until now. Understanding their development process, behavior, and attitudes about their environment was important to me in my own development as their college advisor.
Which courses/aspects of the program are you most looking forward to?
The courses of the certificate that I was looking most forward to were Youth Development (which I’m currently taking now) and Youth Action and Agency. I was excited to learn about the different ways in which young adults are affected by their environment, early childhood experiences, exposure to media, and technology usage and how that contributes to their growth in society as adults.
A majority of the programs we offer at CUNY SPS are online. Youth Studies, however, offers classes on campus. What do you enjoy most about the on campus course format?
I actually completed my MBA degree online at another university and although I liked the online format, I’m glad that the Youth Studies program is offered on campus. I personally enjoy in-person interactions with my colleagues and professors and love having the opportunity to break out in groups and discuss the material we cover in class together.
What is your relationship like with other students/professors?
I’d say my relationships with other students and my professors are friendly and supportive. All of my classmates are ambitious, dedicated, intelligent, authentic and driven individuals. They are all equally passionate about the work they do and it’s evident in the energy they bring and experiences they share in the classroom on a consistent basis. My professors are amazing to say the least. The two I’ve had so far are incredibly bright and knowledgeable about the field and are motivated to empower us to be just as successful.
Which professional and/or personal goals would you like to achieve while enrolled in the program? In which ways would you like to see yourself grow as a result of taking the program?
My goal in taking this program initially was to expand my knowledge base in the youth development arena. It was more so an effort for professional enrichment so that I can be my best self in my role as a college and career advisor to my students. But ultimately, my desire as a result of earning this certificate is to be prepared for any advancement opportunities that may cross my path as I continue growing in this field.
Do you foresee any advancements/changes occurring in youth studies agencies as a result of their employees taking this program?
I can see agencies being led by professionals that are much more confident and equipped to handle the never-ending changes that are inevitable to happen in a field such as this. With different state and citywide changes that affect our school system and budgeting, it’s important to have flexible, qualified and knowledgeable employees on the frontlines of our agencies to best support the missions of these organizations for our young people.
So far, what advice can you give to someone who is considering returning to school for an advanced certificate or master's degree?
Returning to school for either an advacned certificate or a master’s in this field is going to be one of the best decisions that you can make if you are truly passionate about affecting positive change in our impressionable youth. Although working full-time and participating in these classes full-time will be challenging, the rewards are well worth it. Everything you learn in this program will be put to use, if not immediately, eventually. It’s important to continue perfecting your craft, especially in a field that involves policy changes in youth work. There’s so much to still uncover in this field. Being a part of this growing movement is a great place to be.