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10 Tips to Amplifying Youth Voice in OST and Summer Learning Programs

As out-of-school time and summer learning programs continue to play an essential role in supporting the development of young people, it's important that youth voices and perspectives are at the center of program design and implementation. Amplifying youth voice can lead to more engaging and effective programs that better meet the needs of young people. Here are ten tips for amplifying youth voice in out-of-school time and summer learning programs:

  1. Create Youth Advisory Boards: Establish a youth advisory board made up of program participants to provide feedback, ideas and recommendations on program design and implementation.
  2. Shadow a Student: Encourage your staff to gain an understanding of the out-of-school time experience from the perspective of a young person and use what they learn to keep designing.
  3. Host Listening Sessions: Schedule regular listening sessions with young people to gather feedback and insights about their experiences in the program.
  4. Use Surveys and Feedback Forms: Provide opportunities for young people to provide feedback through surveys and feedback forms that are easy to complete and provide a safe and anonymous space for sharing thoughts and ideas.
  5. Facilitate Focus Groups: Conduct focus groups with small groups of young people to delve deeper into specific topics related to program design and implementation.
  6. Engage Youth in Program Evaluation: Involve young people in program evaluation by asking them to assess program outcomes and provide feedback on how the program can be improved.
  7. Promote Youth-Led Projects: Encourage and support young people in creating and leading their own projects within the program.
  8. Provide Leadership Opportunities: Create opportunities for young people to take on leadership roles within the program, such as mentoring younger peers or leading group activities.
  9. Foster a Safe and Inclusive Environment: Foster a safe and inclusive environment where young people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives, regardless of their background or experiences.
  10. Provide Professional Development: Provide ongoing professional development for program staff to ensure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively listen to and amplify youth voice. Be sure to let youth lead some or all of the PD session!
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For even more resources, check out the Youth Voice Toolkit provided by the Afterschool Alliance with direct contributions, design and support from a youth advisory board. This toolkit includes resources and tips for engaging young people in advocacy, from hosting listening sessions to creating youth-led campaigns. 

By amplifying youth voice, afterschool and summer learning programs can create more engaging and effective programs that better meet the needs of young people. By empowering young people to have a say in the policies and decisions that affect them, we can build a brighter future for all.