The Contribution Of Urban 4-H Positive Youth Development Towards Social Capital And The Implications For Social Justice
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DepartmentEducation and Urban Studies
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Education is a basic human need-it is a means to and an exercise of one's freedom. A meaningful education empowers people to claim their humanity, liberate their people and work towards social justice (Perry, Steele & Hilliard, 2003). The education experience is just as critical to a survival as is food and shelter. For without a meaningful education, one cannot think and do for themselves. However, Darling-Hammond (2010) points out that there is a common misconception that equal education does in fact exist in our country. In fact, “from the time Southern states made it illegal to teach an enslaved person to read, throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, African Americans faced de facto and de jure exclusion from public schools throughout the nation” (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 28). There are many proposed responses to the problems of inequitable education; one of which includes positive youth development (PYD) (Perry, Steele & Hilliard, 2003). Positive youth development programs have the potential to increase one's social capital; particularly for youth who are marginalized by inequitable access to quality education (Erbstein, 2013; Fields & Nathaniel, 2015a; Williams & Le Menstrel, 2013). Within this qualitative study, I focused on PYD's contribution to social capital and social justice. More specifically, I investigated urban 4-H youth development educator perspectives of programs and practices that serve marginalized youth. I aimed to determine the extent to which their practices aligned with a social capital framework. Findings indicated that there are national, state, and local 4-H initiatives towards reaching marginalized youth. However, even with increased 4-H efforts in urban communities and a growing diverse population, there have been barriers that have prevented 4-H from adequately and/or consistently serving youth in the margins. Findings also indicated multiple dimensions of trust, engagement, and networks that led to increased youth efficacy. Here again, educators reported that 4-H could do a better job of engaging and providing inclusive support networks for underserved communities. There were a variety of reported effective programming practices that could be operationalized nationally in an effort to increase access to social capital. Such factors include: increasing culturally relevant programs, providing professional development around diversity and inclusion, fostering service learning and leadership opportunities, and hiring educators that are diverse and culturally competent.