For Destinee Almore and Hannah Hultink, students in the youth and community development program in the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University, interning with the Kalamazoo Youth Development (KYD) Network has been as impactful for them as it has been for the youth and families they serve.
“It has been the most awesome way to learn new things,” explained Almore, a family studies major who finished her time at Western by completing an internship requirement with KYD Network. “The most meaningful thing is the trainings I’ve received in mindfulness, community building, active listening, cultural bias and implicity.”
Almore works to promote family engagement strategies within the member organizations of KYD Network, a non-profit that strives to build capacity and continuously improve youth development organizations in the Kalamazoo area so they can better serve youth. She has provided coaching services to fifteen member organizations over the course of her summer-long internship and also worked directly with a caseload of five families that were referred to KYD Network through their member groups. “We connect them with other organizations and point them towards resources, then continuously check in to see how things are going and how the resources are working,” said Almore. She has helped families find school programs, food, housing and speech services, among other needs. For Almore, this experience has been invaluable in preparing her for a job search this fall. She hopes to work in juvenile justice or family services.
Hultink, a youth and community development major slated to graduate in December 2019, had an internship during spring 2018 that turned into a paid position working as the advisor of the Kalamazoo County Youth Cabinet (KCYC), a youth advisory council that KYD Network sponsors. “In this role, I get the best of both worlds: working with youth directly and with KYD Network supporting other programs,” said Hultink. During her internship, Hultink assisted with external observations of KYD Network’s partner groups that help them grow and improve.
She now meets with the KCYC, a group of 14-to-21-year-olds from around Kalamazoo County, several times a month as a group and with each member one-on-one. The youth created their own bylaws and focus on four youth-selected community issues: college and career readiness, health and wellness, healthy neighborhoods, and youth violence and racial tension. Each member also forms an individual leadership plan that includes personal and professional goals for themselves, and Hultink helps makes sure they have the resources they need to be successful with their goals. Many of the students choose goals that are tied to the four community issues the group focuses on.
Originally a sports journalism major at Michigan State University, Hultink transferred to WMU after working at a youth summer camp and hearing great things about the University's Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. When she reached out to the department to learn more, she discovered the new youth and community development major and found it to be exactly what she was looking for. She likes the increased flexibility in out of school time that allows kids to be themselves and for the adults working with them to develop a different kind of relationship than the one a teacher forms during school hours.
Hultink’s advice: “If you’re considering working with kids and having that connection and relationship with kids, this is the way to go. The programs for these kids are so important. If you love kids in any form, you should do youth and community development.”
Those interested in pursuing youth and community development are encouraged to learn more about the continuum of professional development available in this area at WMU:
- Bachelor of Science in Youth and Community Development
- Master of Arts in Youth and Community Development
- Graduate Certificate in Youth and Community Development
- Accelerated Graduate Degree Program in Youth and Community Development
- Ph.D. in Education and Human Development with an emphasis in Youth and Community Development