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Journal Article

Splitting the Ranks: Youth as Leaders, Laborers and Learners in U.S. Public Space Participation Projects

Darcy Varney
Children, Youth and Environments
Vol. 17, No. 2, Pushing the Boundaries: Critical International Perspectives on Child and Youth Participation - Focus on the United States and Canada, and Latin America (2007), pp. 646-673
Published by: University of Cincinnati
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7721/chilyoutenvi.17.2.0646
Page Count: 28
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Splitting the Ranks: Youth as Leaders, Laborers and Learners in U.S. Public Space Participation Projects
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Abstract

This study engages current discourses on youth participation by analyzing the designs of community-based youth programs in the United States in terms of where they fall on Hart's (1997) ladder of youth participation. Three categories of youth programs emerged from a content analysis of 31 websites and profiles compiled by the Project for Public Spaces, indicating different social constructions of participants. Youth-designed and youth-led programs that emphasize community leadership consistently use the positive language of youth empowerment when describing their participants and goals. Adult-designed and adult-led programs that employ young people to improve communities most often use the language of prevention science, or “youth as victims.” Adult-youth collaborative programs that focus on individual learning and community improvement typically present their participants and goals using the language of positive psychology, framing youth as active agents of change. The findings point to the need for study of the ways in which particular participatory program types support or hinder the personal development and leadership potential of different youth populations.

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