My experience in the After School Matters Fellowship
Hello everyone! My name is Kevin Kalla and I coordinate Set It Up and the Youth Intern Program here at SPNN. I’ve been working in the youth development field for seven years now, and this year I was given the opportunity to participate in a practitioner’s fellowship through After School Matters. The fellowship brings together a diverse group of youth workers and administrators to perform field research on the work that they do. As part of my own research, I pulled together a focus group of youth that I’ve worked with here at SPNN.
“What keeps you coming back?” I asked the group.
“The people. If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t come back, I swear,” Destiny
said, laughing. She continued, “It makes me feel like I have somewhere else to
go. Somewhere I can come and be creative, with creative people, and we learn
things that are meaningful to our lives and to our communities and to us. I feel like
I am actually doing something, like, positive with myself... The environment, the
atmosphere of everything, it’s like a place of freedom.”
There were many other questions and answers that day, but Destiny’s insight cut to the heart of the question I was researching. The topic I had chosen for my paper was sustaining youth engagement over time. Through talking to both youth and youth workers, I hoped to come to a better understanding of how to continue to challenge and engage youth who are involved across multiple programs and for multiple years.
I am currently in the process of revising the paper that came out of this process. Through writing, reflection, and conversations with other youth workers involved in the fellowship, I have gained some insight into what keeps young people engaged and coming back to our programs. Others in the fellowship have also been researching some really interesting topics, from building a youth council with the input of youth to shifting organizational culture to include youth work principles. I look forward to presenting my findings with others in the fellowship at a roundtable presentation at the University of Minnesota on September 28th. The end is in sight!