At Our Best

Building Youth-Adult Partnerships in Out-of-School Time Settings

Edited by:
Gretchen Brion-Meisels, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Jessica Tseming Fei, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Deepa Sriya Vasudevan, Wellesley College

A volume in the series: Current Issues in Out-of-School Time. Editor(s): Helen Janc Malone, Institute for Educational Leadership.

Published 2020

At Our Best: Building Youth-Adult Partnerships in Out-of-School Time Settings brings together the voices of over 50 adults and youth to explore both the promises and challenges of intergenerational work in out-of-school time (OST) programs. Comprised of 14 chapters, this book features empirical research, conceptual essays, poetry, artwork, and engaged dialogue about the complexities of youth-adult partnerships in practice. At Our Best responds to key questions that practitioners, scholars, policymakers, and youth navigate in this work, such as: What role can (or should) adults play in supporting youth voice, learning, and activism? What approaches and strategies in youth-adult partnerships are effective in promoting positive youth development, individual and collective well-being, and setting-level change? What are the tensions and dilemmas that arise in the process of doing this work? And, how do we navigate youth-adult partnerships in the face of societal oppressions such as adultism, racism, and misogyny? Through highlighting contemporary cases of authentic youth-adult partnerships in youth programs, this fourth volume of the IAP series on OST aims to introduce, engage, and sharpen educators’ understandings of the power and promise of these relationships. Together, the authors in this volume suggest that both building youth-adult partnerships and actively reflecting on intergenerational work are foundational practices to achieving transformational change in our OST organizations, schools, neighborhoods, and communities.

Praise for At Our Best:

"There is nothing more powerful in our efforts to improve our society than understanding how to cultivate deep and meaningful partnerships with young people. “At Our Best” offers key insights about the power of youth-adult partnerships in out-of-school time settings. Brion-Meisels, Fei & Vasudevan have compiled a powerful and comprehensive collection of voices of people who are blazing a new path in partnering with youth. This book is a must read for researchers and practitioners searching for fresh analysis and innovative insights into building youth-adult partnerships." ~ Shawn Ginwright, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Education & Africana Studies, San Francisco State University
Chief Executive Officer, Flourish Agenda, Oakland CA

"There are few books that consider how youth and adults work as partners for the benefit of their schools, their communities and themselves. “At Our Best” changes the status quo. It takes seriously the urgency and centrality of intergenerational inclusion by bringing together the voices of educators, academics, artists, youth workers, organizers and students. The chapters move between theory and practice, providing rich reflections on foundations of youth-adult partnerships while also detailing best practices in out-of-school time. The authors generously share the struggles and joy of this work. In so doing, they provide a roadmap for navigating the complex work of youth-adult partnerships in our current social and political context." ~ Shepherd Zeldin, Professor Emeritus, Civil Society and Community Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Book reviews and associated articles:

Journal of Youth Development: Book Review—At Our Best: Building Youth–Adult Partnerships in Out-of-School Time Settings

Learning in Afterschool & Summer: Promoting Youth-Adult Partnerships in the Era of COVID-19

Sperling Center: Q&A with Gretchen Brion-Meisels, Deepa Vasudevan, and Anna West

Youth Today: Collaborating With Youth in OST Setting Is Best for Goals

Foreword: Intergenerational Solidarity When the House Is on Fire, Maria Elena Torre. Acknowledgments. Introduction, Gretchen Brion-Meisels, Deepa Sriya Vasudevan, and Jessica Tseming Fei. SECTION I: THE FOUNDATIONS OF PARTNERSHIP. Trust Formation in Youth–Adult Relationships in Out-of-School Time Organizations, Aisha N. Griffith and Xue Jiang. Art Education and the Problem-Posing Methodology: A Critical Approach to Learning From and Working With Students and Their Communities, Luis-Genaro Garcia. Critical Reflections on Tensions in Authentic Youth–Adult Partnerships, Juan C. Medina, Bianca J. Baldridge, and Tanya Wiggins. SECTION II: ON RELATIONAL PRACTICES. Let the Show Begin, Kelsey Tonacatl-Cuatzo. Rewind: Ten Years of a Youth–Adult Partnership, Marcellina Angelo and Deborah Bicknell. A Delicate Dance, Sylvia Boguniecki. “To Pick up a Pen Instead of a Gun”: Rewriting Richmond Through RAW Talent, Donté Clark and Molly Raynor. Picture of Jennifer, Arie Dowe. Ricans With Pride, Arianna Ayala. Care/ful Kinship: An Intergenerational Reflection on the Risks and Possibilities of Youth Work, Amanda Torres and Anna West. SECTION III: ON ORGANIZATIONAL PRACTICES. Profiles, Key Moments, and a Continuum of Youth-Led Participation: An Inclusive Model of Youth Development Work, Pegah Rahmanian. The Differences, Tianna Davis. Better Together: The Promise, Preconditions, and Precautions of a Youth–Adult Partnership Approach to Collaborative Research, Sarah Zeller-Berkman, Mia Legaspi-Cavin, Jessica Barreto, Jennifer Tang, and Asha Sandler. To Partner With Us, Trust Our Ideas: Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School Educators’ Support of Youth Researchers/Activists, Yohely Comprés. Hip-Hop Music-Making as a Context for Relational Equity Among Youth and Youth Workers, Erica Van Steenis and Ben Kirshner. Voila! Latifat Odetunde. Building the Beloved Community: Intergenerational Organizing at the Highlander Research and Education Center, Jessica Tseming Fei with Nayir Vieira Freeman, Rush George, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, and Allyn Maxfield-Steele. SECTION IV: ON THE COMPLEX ROLE OF ADULTS. Failed by the System, Emmylou Nicolle. How Do We Heal Together? Unlearning Trauma in a South Asian, Diaspora, and Indo-Caribbean Youth–Adult Partnership Space, Melissa Kapadia, Anika Kabani, and Nudar Chowdhury. Helping Hands, Gassendina Lubintus. Tensions of Purpose: Strategies to Strengthen Partnerships and Overcome Barriers Between Youth and Adults and Advance Transformative Social Change, Samantha Rose Hale, Heang Ly, Nathaniel McLean-Nichols, and Carrie Mays. If the Goal is Greatness, Expect Greatness From Everyone, Noelis Tovar. “Why Couldn’t That Have Been Me?” Reflections on Confronting Adultism in Education Organizing Spaces, Kristy Luk, Noah Schuettge, Keith Catone, and Catalina Perez. Past, Present, Future, Eduardo Galindo. Flipping the Script: Leaving Room for Youth to Grow Their Power, Thomas Nikundiwe. SECTION V: LOOKING FORWARD. “At Our Best”: Youth–Adult Partnership and the Struggle for Collective Well-Being, Gretchen Brion-Meisels, Jessica Tseming Fei, and Deepa Sriya Vasudevan. About the Editors. About the Contributors.

"the ideas presented in At Our Best provide a critical examination of youth–adult partnerships through a variety of texts and diverse viewpoints. The combination of quality research and heartfelt essays create space where practitioners, researchers, and program coordinators can come together to better understand the intricacies of youth–adult relationships. At Our Best helps us explore ways to best support and grow these relationships in our own programs and communities." Katie Black Blinn College in School Community Journal (Read full review)

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