A Comparative Examination of How Program Design Components Influence Youth Leadership-Skill Development

Samantha Bates, Dawn Anderson-Butcher, Theresa Ferrari, Christy Clary


A growing interest in how adolescents can prepare for the workforce has contributed to the development of positive youth development (PYD) programs focused on youth leadership. This study explored what mechanisms and design components support leadership skill development among youth participating in 3 different PYD leadership programs. All of these programs involve high school students, have a focus on leadership, and emphasize college and workforce readiness. The aims of the study were to (a) examine what commonalities and differences in program design components contribute to skill development, (b) identify what leadership skills youth develop by participating in PYD leadership programs, and (c) explore what underlying mechanisms youth perceive contribute to their skill development over time. A total of 3 focus groups were conducted, each lasting 90 minutes, with a total of 18 youth (i.e., 6 youth per program). Nvivo, a qualitative software, and thematic analysis were used to distill common and differential themes related to the program design components the participants recognized as integral parts of the programs that contributed to their leadership skill development. Common skills developed across all 3 programs included working in groups, public speaking, and problem solving, yet differences in skills were also reported and linked to differences in program design. Additional findings showed several underlying mechanisms supported leadership skill development among youth participants. Findings can inform the development of effective youth leadership PYD programs, thereby further supporting youth in achieving their goals; avoiding harmful behaviors; and developing the competencies, confidence, and values youth need to successfully transition to adulthood. 


youth leadership; program design; skill development; high school

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2020.868

Copyright (c) 2020 Samantha Bates, Dawn Anderson-Butcher, Theresa Ferrari, Christy Clary

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