FamilyMeans Youth Development Essay on Equity

FamilyMeans Youth Development Essay on Equity

Jun 10, 2020

Youth Programs

For over a quarter century staff in FamilyMeans’ youth programs have responded to the children and teens who walk through our doors with excitement and conviction. Excitement over the opportunity to discover and nurture her/his/their potential, find out what joys they have in their lives, and bring to others, and see self-realizations made and confidence gained. Conviction about finding ways to help youth recognize their strengths, overcome obstacles, address sadness, fear, and anger, treat each other well, and chart a productive and satisfying course into adulthood.

Throughout these 25+ years FamilyMeans has made a commitment to work in East Metro communities (Landfall and Cimarron) in which youth are described as “at-risk.” That was, and still is, an uncomfortable and undeserving label to assign. There are youth in every community who face risks that might derail their healthy and positive development. A faulty assumption sometimes spawned from that label is that the risk has manifested from within the individual, family, subculture, or immediate community.

We must not jump to that microscopic conclusion before examining the societal forces, and our own actions and beliefs that unequally help or hinder each person’s life trajectory. In our youth development work we have learned to “consider the environment before the child.” If a plant withers, do we blame it for its own demise? It, like we, has an elemental drive to survive, and do so by any means possible. What is essentially “at-risk” is the loss to our individual and collective prosperity if we do not do all we can to help every person reach their potential.

FamilyMeans’ youth development work has always been focused on providing equitable opportunities for youth to learn, thrive, connect, and contribute.

  • We use our resources to expose youth to the people, places, ideas, and opportunities that await them.
  • We treat them with care as fellow human beings, with acceptance of their individuality, and with openness and respect for their ideas and beliefs.
  • We set expectations for youth, and accept accountability for our own words and actions.
  • We create opportunities for youths’ voices to be heard in and outside of our programs. 
  • We give them opportunities to assume leadership and have input on who will serve them.
  • We have created a pathway that guides them in creating a desirable and productive life in adulthood.
  • We are committed to hiring staff who have cultural, experiential, linguistic, and/or lived experiences similar to the youth we serve.
  • We are committed to offering all of this without cost to participating families through sought grants and donations

Youth and parents make the choice to participate in our programs. They have chosen to do so for many years. We believe that our efforts to offer opportunity, equality, respect, and caring are the keys to this long-running, and ever-renewing relationship. We offer our experiences as foundational actions you can take and share to repair and rewrite the social compact in our country.


Tom Yuska
FamilyMeans Director of Youth Development