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Quality matters in positive youth development

When choosing a youth program, most people think about convenience, affordability and whether the activities are interesting and fun. But these factors alone are not enough.

A growing body of research shows that high-quality youth programs focused on building social and emotional skills can lead to young people earning better grades, enhanced leadership skills, improved self-esteem and better ability to interact with others.

Extension has been researching the 64 indicators needed to create a positive youth development program. The indicators fall under four categories following Maslow's hierarchy of needs: a safe environment, a supportive environment, interaction and engagement.

"All of these indicators need to happen every day—with every young person—to receive the benefits that lead to positive youth development," says Deborah Moore, Extension youth development program quality leader.

In addition to offering 4-H programs that are based on these indicators, Extension works with other youth-serving organizations to provide the latest research in positive youth development.

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