The Education Commission of the States’ recently released policy brief, Creative Youth Development: Transforming the Learning Environment, which received input from the Creative Youth Development National Partnership, provides an overview of CYD and its connections to student success, examples of successful programs, and considerations for state policymakers.
CYD programs may be particularly beneficial for underserved youth, providing them with opportunities to amplify inherent strengths and talents, build positive relationships, and express themselves in safe and healthy spaces. Increased flexibilities under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offer states the opportunity to explore the use of innovative strategies to provide students with a well-rounded education that includes the arts. CYD strategies may serve to narrow the achievement gap and increase equity in education systems. Additionally, states may use CYD programs in conjunction with other educational initiatives, including those related to school improvement, alternative education, deeper learning, social-emotional learning and 21st century skills.
Many youth participants in CYD programs attest that their involvement changed the trajectory of their lives. Additionally, numerous young people state that participation in a CYD program effectively saved their lives. However, there are not enough CYD programs to meet the needs and interests of young people in our communities. While creative youth development is on the rise, not every community has CYD opportunities for young people. And some outstanding programs have waiting lists of young people who never have a chance to participate because demand exceeds the number of openings.
“Parents of 18.5 million children (38 percent) not currently participating in afterschool programs say they would enroll their children if a program were available to them.”
Clearly there is unmet demand among youth and families for high quality afterschool programs. So how do we know that there is unmet demand for CYD programs, specifically?
The Search Institute has conducted substantial research in the area of young people’s deep interests and passions, or their sparks, with compelling results about young people’s interest in creative pursuits.
Creative arts was the number one interest area cited by U.S. teens aged 12-17 among the top 10 sparks categories. In fact, creative arts was cited by 54% of teens, more than twice as often as the number two category, athletics, which was named by 25% of teens surveyed (Benson, 2008).
“…creative life…art, music, drama, dance, movement is the largest category in which sparks fall for America’s kids…that’s the area in which the most kids say, ‘I’m my best self.’ It’s the arena in which most kids will say “ is where life is the fullest and most hopeful.” (Benson, 2011)
Young people are clearly interested in opportunities for creative skill building, inquiry, and expression, which is at the heart of CYD. So policymakers, funders, youth developers, community leaders and others who value supporting young people in identifying and cultivating their sparks, or personal passions, should support increasing access to and investment in CYD. High-quality creative youth development programs are essential pathways for young people to thrive.