The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field

Professional Journeys of Growth, Connection, and Transformation

Edited by:
Georgia Hall, National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at Wellesley College
Jan Gallagher, Clear Effective Communication
Elizabeth Starr, National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at Wellesley College

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

Published 2023

Youth work is a sacred opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of children and youth. Through research and personal essay narrative, The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field: Professional Journeys of Growth, Connection, and Transformation shines a light on the intricate connections between research and practice, touching upon both the vulnerability and triumph of youth development work. The passionate voices of youth workers in this volume lead to the inescapable conclusion that programs and policies for youth must be informed by these same voices and the values they express.

We hope this book shows OST workers, researchers, funders, and policymakers, as well as other education professionals, how youth workers’ lived experiences inspire their ability to build the relationships that are the foundation of positive and healthy youth development. From relationships comes engagement, and from engagement, transformation—centered in equity, inclusion, and belonging. No one is better able to advocate for these truths than the professionals who found themselves—by whatever means—working with young people to bring positive change to their lives, their communities, and our world.


"The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field: Professional Journeys of Growth, Connection and Transformation is a timely discussion about what we in the Out-of-School Time and youth development field know already - that this work is an integral part of the success, survival, and thriving of youth. This book will be a catalyst for ensuring the professionalization of our field and additional support and resources for out-of-school time and youth development professionals." — Ebony Grace, NJSACC: The Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities

"The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field provides a window into the lives of youth workers and experiences that led to their work with young people. It beautifully illustrates the importance of building positive relationships with youth, and details the practices and strategies successfully employed by youth workers. While this book will be immeasurably valuable to researchers, funders, and policymakers, it is also an important resource for program leaders to promote reflection and discussion among youth worker staff as part of staff development." — Sam Piha, The How Kids Learn Foundation and Temescal Associates

Acknowledgments. Foreword, Michelle Seligson. Introduction, Georgia Hall, Jan Gallagher, and Elizabeth Starr. SECTION I: THEORY. Relational-Cultural Theory: At the Heart of the OST Field, Betsy Nordell. SECTION II: PATHWAYS. Creating and Supporting Pathways to Sustained Careers in Youth Work, Nancy Peter. Turning Points, Brandis Stockman. Journey of the Heart, Jocelyn Wiedow. Taking Equity Full Circle, Mariana Lopez Quintanilla. Sweet Spot, Marisela Montoya. Investing in Communities of Color, Kourtney Andrada. Reflection Questions. SECTION III: ENGAGEMENT. Shifting the Paradigm: Simple and Radical Ways to Create Safe, Supportive, and Engaging Settings With Youth, John Weiss and Thomas Akiva. Creating Windows Through Words, Devan Blackwell. Knowing Who I Am, Terrance Cauley. Afterschool as Mission, Edward Franklin. Mentoring Lessons: Paying It Forward, Anthony Pound. Keeping Relationship-Building at the Center, Brad Lademann. Reflection Questions. SECTION IV: TRANSFORMATION. Transformative Influence in OST Programs, Ingrid A. Nelson. Sanctuary, Brittany Jacobs. Transformative Power of the Arts, Emily Ustach. A Mirror for Black Boys, Amy M. Franks. You Can’t Fake the Funk! Priscilla Parchia. Healing Toward Transformation, Keith F. Miller, Jr. Reflection Questions. SECTION V: EQUITY. Centering Equity in the OST Field, Jimena Quiroga Hopkins. Conclusion: Now More Than Ever, Jane Quinn. About the Authors.