Why Youth Development is a Great Field for Artists
“Youth development is a process that prepares a young person to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood and achieve his or her full potential. Youth development is promoted through activities and experiences that help youth develop social, ethical, emotional, physical, and cognitive competencies.” - http://nasetalliance.org/youthdev/index.htm
After graduating from Binghamton University last spring, I left with no plan. I had spent most of my undergraduate career being a poet junkie and turnup queen so by the time graduation rolled around, I was just excited to gather my degree and go. That first summer after college was bliss. I spent every waking moment reveling in my newfound freedom and marveling at all the potential opportunities that lay in front of me. All I wanted to do was immerse myself in art and poetry and spend time working towards making a name for myself among the greats. I was living my best life without a care in the world, figuring that a plan for what I would do next was just going to fall into my lap. By the time fall came around, my bank account had had enough of my carefree bullshit. It was full time for me to start securing enough money to support my aspirations, and that meant getting a job.
The struggling artist stereotype is real. Unfortunately, creative endeavors aren’t seen as valuable in comparison to most other things (even though some form of artistry exists in almost every aspect of the world we live in but I digress…). As a result, many creatives find themselves working at jobs they hate just to be able to support themselves. I knew that fate was just not something I could stomach, so I weathered the storm of endless applications and interviews for six long months. Lots of crying, empty wine bottles, and hair pulling. Then I stumbled upon a position for a youth development specialist. I still find a home in that same position today.
I was not familiar with the field of youth development until I got the call for that interview. Since starting back in February, I have gone to a number of trainings that are facilitated to help people in the field of youth development improve and network. We would talk about inclusivity, emotional intelligence, supporting without overbearing, LGBTQ+ sensitivity, social justice, and much more; all while learning to use these tools in a way that nurtures the students we work with in our respective programs. These students tend to be in environments where they are set up for failure, and it is our job to teach them to navigate obstacles and reach their full potential. It is at these trainings that I have been reassured time and time again that I held out for the perfect position for me.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t the only poet in my job network, because I’m not even the only poet on my everyday team. I found it odd at first that so many of my colleagues just happen to be creatively inclined until it hit me; Youth Development is one of the most perfect fields for aspiring artists. It calls for somebody passionate, emotionally intelligent, open-minded, and driven to touch the lives of others. Because it is a relatively new field, not many people are aware of its importance or even its existence. I would have cut the time I spent job hunting in half had I known exactly where to look, so if you are an aspiring artist with a dwindling bank account sitting on your hands wondering what path to take to secure your next check? This is your sign. Go forth, spread the love, and teach the next generation to be just as lit as you are.