New Frontiers for Youth Development in the Twenty-First Century
Delgado, Melvin (2002).
New York: Columbia University Press; 352 pages. $27.00. ISBN 0231122810.
As a professor of social work and expert in the field of youth development, Delgado’s aim for this work is to provide the reader with a comprehensive yet textured picture of the youth development field as it is emerging in the twenty-first century. This includes establishing a context for the reader to comprehend the importance of broadening notions of appropriate settings for youth development. According to the author, the choice of youth development contexts has direct implications for preparing youth to become critical members of our society in an increasingly global economy. Along the way, the author raises numerous questions regarding the benefits of conceptualizing youth from a deficit perspective versus an asset perspective, establishing youth development a profession, formalizing who should be considered youth development specialists, and the necessity of including youth in the decision-making process of youth development programming. Overall, Delgado highlights the differences that arise between community-based youth development programs, and programming that takes place in what the author refers to as new frontier settings.
Part One provides a history of the foundational underpinnings of youth development programming and covers a broad range of supporting research. Sections focus on the practice of youth development in terms of challenges and rewards; origins and definitions; approaches and considerations; principles and core elements; as well as various domains, activities, settings, frameworks, youth participants and program goals. In covering such a wide range of elements, Delgado seeks to provide an overall structure for understanding the core components of youth development, and the importance of contextualizing these when approaching both traditional youth development and new frontier settings. The author attempts to operationalize a contextualized definition of youth development in order to provide a sense of cohesion among these sometimes disparate elements. This section provides a needed, albeit lengthy, overview for those unfamiliar with past and current trends in youth development.
In Part Two, the focus turns to demonstrating new settings for youth development based on the contextualized framework presented in Part One. The author defines these new frontier settings as “organizations within a community where a service is provided to the residents,” and in which youth are targeted “as assets and as a specific age-group population that will play an instrumental role in carrying out the functions of the setting” (p. 162). Examples of such organizations include libraries, museums, aquariums, zoos, and outdoor adventure. In an attempt to actively involve readers and avoid reifying these contexts, the author encourages readers to identify new frontier opportunities specific to their own communities.
The new frontier model substantiates the shift in youth development from one of community-based organizations providing youth development to one in which social agencies use practitioners from numerous fields to provide youth with programming that is relevant and specific to their particular locale. For example, this may include marine biologists targeting youth in their seaside community by providing internship opportunities at their facility. Delgado also emphasizes more common and conventional activities (such as drama, writing, community service, art, mentoring, leadership development and career preparation) for use in new frontier settings.
Delgado provides readers with concrete examples of such new frontier programs. By utilizing a case study approach, Delgado is able to realize his initial goals of illustrating rewards and challenges, day-to-day operations, and future recommendations of new frontier settings. This research methodology provides rich information into what a new frontier setting looks like, and is useful to those interested in expanding current programming in order to include new approaches to youth development. The author conducted interviews, targeting various areas of the United States including Florida, Massachusetts, and Illinois, in order to provide a cross-section of youth populations and community resources. Delgado acknowledges that limited travel funds and insufficient time for interviewing on the part of program staff compromised the depth of some of the case examples. This methodology also limits his ability to generalize these results. However, his initial explorations should provide rich fodder for further theory-testing research in this emerging area of youth development.
The intended audience for this book includes those working within the youth development field (whether conventional or “frontier”), professionals within the mental health and educational fields, as well as parents, community leaders, and directors of community facilities who are interested in exploring ways to integrate youth more fully into their own organizations or into society. This book provides readers with a convincing argument that the possibilities for youth development programming are endless, and new frontier settings are not only plausible, but necessary to carry out the fundamental tenet of youth development: preparing youth for a changing society.
This book may not be as well-received by program providers and those who seek to narrow the boundaries of youth development programming. While the field is not considered an organized profession, conventional youth development programming holds an important place in providing much-needed services. The author stresses the importance of keeping the needs of youth primary in order to avoid debates regarding who should and should not be practicing youth development.
The impetus of Delgado’s book is to address the changing landscape of youth development, and subsequently, to help others prepare youth to become more engaged citizens in an emerging globalized society. The author also foreshadows the impending tensions that are likely to emerge as the field balances its movement in the directions of both a multidisciplinary approach and perhaps as an organized profession. By broadening the face of youth development programming into new frontier settings, Delgado makes the case for deciding who becomes qualified to carry out this more complex programming, while also illustrating that such decisions have significant implications for the emerging field of youth development as a whole.
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Gwen M. Louden-Gerber is a student in the Counselor Education and Supervision Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She holds a Master of Arts and Educational Specialist degrees in counseling psychology from James Madison University. Her research interests include ethno-religious identity, ritualistic practices in the therapeutic context, and underserved populations within the mental health arena.
The University of Texas at Austin
Bradley L. Gerber is a student in the School Psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include childhood depression and the efficacy of collaboration in psychological assessment.
Michael J. Karcher
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Michael Karcher is an Associate Professor of Counseling and Educational Psychology. He holds doctoral degrees in Human Development from Harvard and Counseling Psychology from the University of Texas. His primary research is on youth mentoring and peers’ involvement in youth programs, both of which he describes in the Handbook of Youth Mentoring (Sage, 2005), which he co-edited with David L. DuBois.