The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field: Professional Journeys of Growth, Connection, and Transformation


the heartbeat of the youth coverResearchers at NIOST co-edited the book, The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field: Professional Journeys of Growth, Connection, and Transformation, as part of Information Age Publishing’s Current Issues in Out-of-School Time series.


Through research and personal essays, the book shines a light on the intricate connections between research and practice, touching upon both the vulnerability and triumph of youth development work. The passionate voices of youth workers in this volume lead to the inescapable conclusion that programs and policies for youth must be informed by these same voices and the values they express.


With this book, the editors aim to show OST workers, researchers, funders, and policymakers, as well as other education professionals, how youth workers’ lived experiences inspire their ability to build the relationships that are the foundation of positive and healthy youth development. From relationships comes engagement, and from engagement, transformation—centered in equity, inclusion, and belonging. No one is better able to advocate for these truths than the professionals who found themselves—by whatever means—working with young people to bring positive change to their lives, their communities, and our world.




    "The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field: Professional Journeys of Growth, Connection and Transformation is a timely discussion about what we in the Out-of-School Time and youth development field know already - that this work is an integral part of the success, survival, and thriving of youth. This book will be a catalyst for ensuring the professionalization of our field and additional support and resources for out-of-school time and youth development professionals."

    – Ebony Grace, NJSACC: The Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities


    "The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field provides a window into the lives of youth workers and experiences that led to their work with young people. It beautifully illustrates the importance of building positive relationships with youth, and details the practices and strategies successfully employed by youth workers. While this book will be immeasurably valuable to researchers, funders, and policymakers, it is also an important resource for program leaders to promote reflection and discussion among youth worker staff as part of staff development."

    – Sam Piha, The How Kids Learn Foundation and Temescal Associates


    "This is a must read for everyone in the out-of-school time and youth development learning space. I am excited to see the conversations, connections and collaborations this text will inspire. Reflecting on my own journey, this work motivates me to examine how I show up in each of those spaces and how we hold space for others to do the same. It is more than just a “job." This book gives you a glimpse into the “vocation.” It is amazing to see our profession painted in this light."

    – Brodrick Clarke, Vice President of Programs, National Summer Learning Association


ASM logoMany essay authors in this volume participated in the National Afterschool Matters Fellowship, a one-year professional development and leadership training program hosted by NIOST.




Share the book and related media with your colleagues on social media using #journeysinOST


In the fourth episode of the series, Georgia talks to Terrance Cauley, Senior Director in the Department of Youth, Family & Clinical Services at Better Family Life, Inc. in St. Louis, Missouri. Terrance highlights the importance of offering historically marginalized Black youth opportunities for self-definition, and discusses how he does this through his work in out-of-school time programming.

In this third episode of the series, NIOST director Georgia Hall, Ph.D., talks with Brittany Jacobs, Library Director at the Burlington Public Library in Iowa and Edward Franklin, President and CEO of Voice of Hope Ministries in Texas.

NIOST master observer Betsy Nordell, Ed.D., talks about Relational Cultural Theory and how it can help us understand the transformative power of OST professionals.

In an excerpt from the book, Nancy Peter talks about the many pathways people take into youth work, and the need to support them with clear entry points, opportunities for advancement, fair compensation, and continuous professional development—no matter how they arrived in the field.

In the second episode of the series, Amy Franks reads from her essay, "A Mirror for Black Boys," and Devan Blackwell reads from his essay, "Creating Windows Through Words." Both essays explore the ways in which youth development experiences can transform lives.



    "NIOST has been an anchor for numerous school age care projects we do, including ASQ (After-School Quality) and Links to Learning. They are a nationally respected organization that Pennsylvania has partnered with for over 20 years."

    – Betsy O. Saatman, TA Specialist/SAC Initiatives, Pennsylvania Key

    "NIOST was a core partner in supporting the development of quality improvement systems across the nine cities that participated in The Wallace Foundation Next Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative. The NIOST team worked well with other technical assistance partners in the initiative, always willing to pitch in and collaborate with others to make our professional learning community meetings a team effort. I truly hope the Foundation has an opportunity to partner with them in the future."

    – Priscilla M. Little, Initiative Manager, The Wallace Foundation


    "NIOST has been a leader in the out-of-school time field for as long as I can remember, and I have relied on their research, tools, and advice to improve my practice throughout my career. Their staff members are good partners and good listeners, and their influence across the country is palpable."

    – Jane Quinn, Vice President and Director of National Center for Community Schools, Children's Aid Society

    "Georgia Hall, Ellen Gannett, and the NIOST team have been instrumental in driving the healthy afterschool movement. Their dedication to quality practice, informed policy, and collective impact is instrumental in our effort to create healthier communities."

    – Daniel W. Hatcher, Director, Community Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

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The National Institute on Out-of-School Time

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