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Too Dope Not to Share

Too Dope Not to Share - YDN's way of connecting with our network. 

At YDN, we are constantly reading about new ideas, listening to new music and meeting new people. In order to share the things we are paying attention to, we've created a weekly newsletter called Too Dope Not to Share that goes out via email every Tuesday. On it we share:
  • What We're Geeking Out On, where we share articles, ideas and programs that we are loving or thinking about;
  • Ear Candy, where we share music that we are listening to;
  • POP (Praise Our Peeps), where we share people and organization that we'd like to highlight for their great work;  
  • Tips and Tools, where we share resources that help to build better work environments and particularly like to highlight ways you can use your strengths; and, 
  • Words of Wisdom, where we share quotes that have touched our hearts or our minds. 

If you haven't signed up for our Too Dope, you can sign up here.

If you've missed our Too Dope or would like to revisit them, here is an archive of some of our past editions: 

December 11, 2018 
December 4, 2018
November 27, 2018
November, 13, 2018
November 6, 2018
October 30, 2018
October 23, 2018
October 16, 2018
October 9, 2018
October 2, 2018
September 25, 2018
September 18, 2018
September 11, 2018
September 4, 2018
August 28, 2018
August 21, 2018

Which Too Dope Edition is your favorite?

Posted in Afterschool, BOOST, Camps, Coaching, Collaboration, Dynamic Teams, Expanded Learning, Gallup Certified Coach, Group Facilitation, HipHop, Human Development, Leadership, Listen, Networking, Organizational Development, Policy/Advocacy, Strengths, Strengths Development, Strengths Leadership, StrengthsFinder, Training , Youth Development, Youth Engagement | 2 Comment(s)
Message of Hope -- November 23, 2016

As we gather with friends and family on this Thanksgiving, we cherish this moment and thank you for your passion, dedication, and support of Youth Development Network and our cause. Guided by our core values, we remain dedicated to our collective mission of creating more places and spaces for people to thrive, succeed, and live a life of dignity. 

As we reflect on the things we are thankful for, our core values have been our anchor and will continue to be our guiding light as we move forward. 

We believe in the Power of Relationships. The work before us cannot be done by one organization, one individual, or one way. In order to reach our mission, we must come together under the banner of a collective effort. The impact will be greater together. 

We believe in Social Justice. We work to develop people and communities to build diversity and equity amongst all. We celebrate and appreciate that the differences that make us up as individuals, is what makes us stronger as a community. 

We believe in Change. Led by a combination of research and curiosity, we continue to drive change towards compassionate cultures and climates. We all have our part to play in creating a society where all can thrive, succeed, and live a life of dignity. We believe small changes make big differences.

We believe in Fun. Changing minds and lives requires dedication. Not only do we show up, we also set the tone. Having fun changes the work from what we have to do to what we want to do!

We're dedicated to being youth developers and changemakers. We ask you to use your gifts as we continue on this collective journey to make our world a better place. As Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz recently stated, “Take what you’re good at, and what you truly enjoy, and lend your services to the causes you care most about. ‘Cause we can’t, and we won’t, and we don’t stop.” 

Wishing you all the best from all of us at YDN

Posted in Afterschool, Camps, Coaching, Collaboration, Dynamic Teams, Expanded Learning, Gallup Certified Coach, Group Facilitation, HipHop, Human Development, Leadership, Listen, Networking, Organizational Development, Policy/Advocacy, Strengths, Strengths Development, Strengths Leadership, StrengthsFinder, Training , Youth Development, Youth Engagement | 2 Comment(s)
Top 7 Epiphanies- June 1, 2016 - Author: Adrian Ruiz

A Sudden, Clear, and Quick Reflection: My Top 7 Epiphanies as a Strengths-Based Coach in the Field of Human/Youth Development During the Last 10+ Years

1) My curiosity is appreciated more than my certainty. The questions I ask are more powerful than my answers. This epiphany makes the next six even more important. 
2) Check my head! Suspending assumptions about people and situations makes me a more approachable coach. I love being surprised by who a person truly is; their hopes, fears, vulnerabilities and concerns. In order to do that, I have to truly put aside the things that may cloud my judgment (title, first impression, clothing, you know- the silly materialistic stuff). 
3) I use a q-tip before each coaching session. My clients pay decent money for my service. If my ears are not ready to 100% listen I'm not giving my best to the person(s) expecting my best. Everyone can fake listen, but as a coach I never want to be asked the dreaded words "Are you listening to me?".

Next 4 Epiphanies

What epiphanies have you had on your coaching journey? I would love to hear from you.  

Posted in Coaching, Gallup Certified Coach, Human Development, Leadership, Listen, Strengths, Strengths Development, Strengths Leadership, StrengthsFinder, Youth Development | 5 Comment(s)
After School-Hip Hop Culture - April 28, 2016 - Author: Adrian Ruiz

Top 5 Things After School Youth Developers Can Learn from
Hip-Hop Culture
Heads up! This isn't for everyone.
This is intended for the leaders of the new school. Those with audacious dreams, relentless drive, 
passion and purpose. This blog is for those that know that leadership is not about complacency and youth development isn't learned in a semester or a half- day workshop. This is for those who know how to put the needle on the record and keep it bouncing on the one.
I remember when mainstream would laugh at hip-hop and dismiss it as a fad or novelty. But to some of us hip-hop became our compass, our needle that magically showed us our groove. Similarly I remember when the school day would look down on after-school. They said it lacked rigor and that it could never reach students in the same way as a traditional academic setting.

They were wrong- it did more than reach students. It grabbed the unreachable and invited them to reach for the stars. It found the lost and gave them a place to call home. As my brothers from LA would say "afterschool was about fighting crime and saving lives." Time, data and thousands of testimonials show us that both hip-hop and expanded learning are here to stay and lead the way.

Keep reading as I share with you the Top 5 Things After School Youth Developers Can Learn from Hip-Hop Culture.   

Posted in Afterschool, BOOST, Collaboration, Expanded Learning, HipHop, Strengths Leadership, Youth Development | 1 Comment(s)
Make Strengths More Visible in the Workplace - March 10, 2015 - Author: Adrian Ruiz
5 Things You Can Do Now To Make Strengths More
Visible In The Workplace
Are you like millions of other people who took your StrengthsFinders assessment and felt like the skies opened, the seas parted, and all that was wrong with the world temporarily went away because now someone or something understood you and what made you beyond AMAZING? Me too!
Are you like millions of other people who took your StrengthsFinders assessment and went to work the next day and shared it with everyone, got them excited, talked about how it could totally make you all a more productive team that actually got along or at the very least understood how you all think, feel and behave? Me too!

Are you also like millions of other people who did everything I just mentioned and then got your thunder stolen because you didn’t know what to do next to make the strengths buzz turn into a new more powerful way of living your life and optimizing your work place? Me too!
Well almost…  Continue reading to discover 
some very simple, practical, and effective ways on how my team and I have created a culture that practices the Strengths-based language and approach.  

Read More

Posted in Dynamic Teams, Leadership, Organizational Development, Strengths Leadership | 3 Comment(s)
Strengths-Based Approach - October 2014 - Author: Youth Development Network
Strengths-Based Approach

I have come to a recent realization after lunch with a very good friend and mentor, which I’ll get to in a bit. Something we at YDN feel strongly about is the StrengthsFinder development tool by Gallup. If you don’t know about Strengths yet, why don’t you?! Maybe you better call us up about it.

How many times has someone told you that you sucked at doing something? That you felt you were just going through the motions because you had to? How many times have you felt discouraged because you couldn’t accomplish what you set your mind to?

The YDN team believes in the GALLUP StrengthsFinder tool because we feel strongly about looking at people through an asset-based lens. An asset-based approach is a way of thinking and behaving. Instead of looking at what people can’t offer or are deficient in, we see greater reward when we focus on the unique skills and knowledge someone has to offer and fill a roll within the greater team. 

Example: You hire someone to install a chandelier in your home, but you end up finding out that person doesn’t know how to complete that specific project. You start to dialogue with him about what he’s great at and inevitably build a RELATIONSHIP (Wow, Deja Vu) with him. You figure out he’s a master lighting artisan and can use accent lighting so every crevice of the room can be lit perfectly with a quick snap of your fingers. Are you really going to feel bummed out you didn’t get that chandelier you were hoping for?

So to get back to my realization; people, including teachers, have always told me that writing isn’t my strongest attribute and I should work on it. I’ve come to the realization that writing, more specifically, academic writing isn’t my strongest attribute and I don’t need to work on it. I am perfectly okay with my conversational, casual way of writing because it suits this settings I write in. You wouldn’t ask Bruce Lee to forget his martial art style of Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist) and focus on MMA style because that’s an area he needs to improve. No, we regard Bruce Lee as probably the greatest martial artist there ever was BECAUSE he focused on his strengths.

This is not an invitation to drop out of school or to forgo your weaknesses. This is an invitation to re-evaluate your life, more specifically your strengths and weaknesses. Even more specific, are you using your strengths (what you are good at) in the right setting? Have you found an environment where you are appreciated for what you do best? After all, we are more efficient and happier when we love the job we do.

Posted in Dynamic Teams, Strengths Development, Youth Development | 2 Comment(s)
Running and Engaged Meeting - October 15, 2014 - Author: Youth Development Network

Tips on Running an Engaging Meeting

It’s happened to all of us. The meeting we’ve been dreading all week. The meeting where we have to pretend like we’re listening, try to stay awake and pretend like we’re not drawing cute cats.    

Continue reading for some quick tips to create a more fun, more engaging environment where your meetings can take place.

Read More

Now you’re ready to create engaging meetings. Get out there and rid the world of mundane meetings! Comment below with some of your favorite tips to run fun and engaging meetings.

Posted in Youth Development | 1 Comment(s)
River City HS YDI - September 2014 - Author: Youth Development Network
River City High School - Youth Development Institute

Today, we are highlighting and reminiscing about River City High School.

River City High School is the only high school in the Washington Unified School District. No, we didn’t travel to the state of Washington (we will soon). Washington Unified School District is right across the river in West Sacramento. Early settlers created the town of Washington where West Sacramento is now, hence the name of Washington Unified School District.

River City HS started their school climate enhancement journey 3 years ago. Thanks to the generous funding support of the Trustees of the Arata Brothers Trust, we brought our Youth Development Institute (YDI) to the high school. Our YDI focuses on how adults can create a safe environment where young people can effectively make a change in their community for the better. Ultimately our goals from completing a YDI are that participants can:

  • create quality environments for youth
  • make sure that youth receive the essential experience now that will contribute to their development into successful and healthy adults.

From the Youth Development Institute we proposed that to sustain the climate shift a team at River City HS needed to be trained on how to lead their very own YDIs. We call this process “Train the Trainer”. 6 teachers from River City HS volunteered to lead this effort and become certified YDI Train-the-Trainers for the River City High School Campus. Train the Trainer trains (say that 5 times fast) people on how to deliver relevant and engaging meetings for students and staff while paying respects to the original content. Of course trainers are allowed to put their own flair on the delivery, but the final goals are usually the same.

For the past 2 years, the YDIs at River City High School were facilitated by River City HS teachers with YDN trainers in the background to provide support. We want to send our deepest gratitude to these YDI Certified  trainers that are consistently creating an environment where change comes from the participating experts in the room. In this instance, the experts are the staff, teachers and the students that spend 6-8 hours a day on campus.

We are excited to see where this year’s YDI takes the staff and students at River City High School as they continue their journey with YDN to enhance the campus environment for future generations to come.

Posted in Afterschool, Collaboration, Organizational Development, Training , Youth Development, Youth Engagement | 2 Comment(s)
Twin Rivers USD Leadership Camp - September 2014 - Author: Youth Development Network
Twin Rivers Unified School District Leadership Camp 2014

Time and time again, life takes over our schedule and we forget to take time to reflect on what we have accomplished. Let’s take a step back and reflect on the Twin Rivers Unified School District’s (TRUSD) 2013-2014 school year.

Over the last couple years, Twin Rivers has decided to put an emphasis on youth voice and choice from the students in their district. That’s when the YDN team partnered with Twin Rivers to facilitate The Student Leadership Program. The Student Leadership Program is a year long commitment from high schools and middle schools and the leaders from their sites to identify an issue at their school and create an action plan to change their school sites for the better. If you’re looking for the jargony goals, students will:

  • Learn to identify realistic change in their sphere of influence and strategize for success
  • Troubleshoot each other’s efforts through a positive and supportive learning community
  • Learn to effectively advocate for the issues and needs of their fellow students.

The neat part of The Student Leadership Program is that young people decide what issue to focus on. There is no top-down authority from the teachers or administrators that tell exactly what these young people should be working on. Sometimes as adults, we like to think we know it all. In fact, sometimes the experts in the room are the young people. 

Schools all over the Twin Rivers district pick an issue to tackle. The issues ranged from bullying to drugs on campus to teacher-student relationships. It took a whole year for students to identify the issue and present any solutions they are planning to implement. 

As a final celebratory event, we took these leaders to a summer camp and called it Twin Rivers Unified School District Student Leadership Camp w/ Youth Development Network. Long name, I know. This camp was a 4-day/3-night trip to the Santa Cruz mountains at Happy Valley Conference Center. It was the beginning of their journey into the world of Strengths and a continuation of building their leadership abilities.

Day 1 of camp is what we like to call the “ME” component, where campers start to understand their strengths and how they relate to their lives. This day is designed to get the campers to start to reflect what their Strengths are and who they use them in their everyday lives. We move onto day 2 and day 3 of camp where campers start to think about “WE.” This day is where campers start to think about their strengths in relation to other’s strengths. Day 2 and day 3 are usually the high emotional days where we take the campers on a journey of self reflection and letting go of any negative words people have instilled into our minds.  This day also has high ropes course where campers can start to visualize their strengths in action. Day 4 starts to look at the “COMMUNITY” part of camp and how campers can use their strengths to make a difference in their community. 

As we move forward, it is important to recognize that the Twin Rivers Unified School District is dedicated to get the voice their students and creating better leaders for the future. We want to applaud this district for the continuation of next year’s Student Leadership Program.


Posted in Camps, Collaboration, Expanded Learning, Leadership, Organizational Development, Strengths Development, Training , Youth Development, Youth Engagement | 3 Comment(s)