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Preparing Youth for Adulthood

ACT for Youth Highlight
For background on adolescent development, visit these pages:

Supporting Healthy Development

Healthy adolescent development occurs in many different domains -- physical, sexual, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual. During adolescence, youth are challenged to accomplish major developmental tasks, such as adjusting to a changing body, learning to manage greater independence and responsibility, and developing a sense of self. Youth programs can intentionally promote healthy development by providing opportunities for youth to build and practice skills, explore leadership roles, and enjoy supportive relationships with adults.

The resources below will help program providers work with youth to address common developmental challenges. For resources on closely related topics, see Building Healthy Life Skills.

Community Partners in New York State

Many local youth service agencies provide skill building and mentoring opportunities. Local Youth Bureaus are a good place to start for referrals. Cornell Cooperative Extension's 4-H program offers a variety of youth leadership opportunities, such as the Health Ambassador program. Big Brothers Big Sisters harnesses the power of adult mentors in young people's lives. The YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs focus on health and fitness and may also explore gender-specific development and youth leadership.

Cultural centers, such as Aspira for Latino youth in New York City, might engage young people in an exploration of their identity and community. For LGBTQ youth, regional centers such as Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York City or the Out Alliance may offer guidance and resources to address developmental needs.

Planned Parenthood and local reproductive health centers may offer resources and workshops on gender-specific development, puberty, and body image.

Program Activities and Curricula

Adolescent Development

Rights, Respect, Responsibility
Offered by Advocates for Youth, this K-12 curriculum includes lesson plans on understanding our bodies, bullying and respect, friendship, gender roles, and sexual health topics, among others. Lesson plans for grades 4-8 may also incorporate videos from AMAZE. The curriculum is available in English and Spanish.

Life Planning Education
This curriculum from Advocates for Youth offers a range of activities exploring the adolescent self, values, health and sexuality, relationships to others, gender roles, citizenship and community, and future goals. Free download.

Let's Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum
The National Runaway Switchboard provides this runaway prevention curriculum with strengths-based activities on identity and value exploration; risk behaviors and decision making; relationships to peers, family, and community; and emotional well-being and control. Free download.

Wise Guys
Offered by the Family Life Council Division of Children's Home Society of North Carolina, this curriculum is a male responsibility program targeting males age 11-17. Activities focus on gender roles, personal and family values, and communication and relationship skills, as well as sexuality, sexual health, and parenthood. A version for males age 18-29 is available as well. Both curricula are available in English and Spanish.

Engaging Boys and Men in Gender Transformation (PDF)
This education manual from EngenderHealth challenges boys and men to question their view of masculinity and sexual responsibility. It has been piloted internationally and adapted to many different groups and communities. Activities focus on gender and power, values and relationships, and health and sexuality, among other topics. Free download.

Girls Circle
Girls Circle offers curricula and facilitator activity guides to build confidence and social-emotional competence in girls. Additional topics include body image, sexual health, and substance abuse.

The Council for Boys and Young Men
The Council for Boys and Young Men offers several gender-specific curricula that focus on gender role exploration, emotional regulation, and social competence.

Youth Communication
Youth Communication publishes stories written by teens about the issues they face. The stories can be used as tools to engage young people in conversations about a range of topics and developmental challenges. Anthologies include girls' issues, masculinity, diversity and cultural competence, and growing up Muslim, among others. Curricula are available for purchase on topics including social and emotional learning in high school (In Real Life), social and emotional learning in middle school (#trending), positive masculinity (Real Men 2.0), girls' empowerment (Real As Me), and career readiness (On My Way). Training is offered for Youth Communication curricula. Anthologies of stories by teens are available for purchase.

Race: Are We So Different?
A project of the American Anthropological Association, this interactive website offers many resources, including teacher guides. The site explores race through three lenses: history, the biology and genetics of human variation, and lived experience.

Teaching Tolerance
A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance offers web-based classroom activities and free teaching kits on a range of topics such as race and ethnicity, ability, gender and sexual identity, and other social justice issues.

Out-of-School Time and Community Program Leaders
Here the HHS Office of Adolescent Health links to resources to help youth-serving program leaders enrich their programs.

Physical Health

Guidelines for Healthy Food and Beverages for Adolescent Health Programs (PDF)
Developed by ACT for Youth for program providers funded by the New York State Department of Health, these nutrition guidelines give practical ideas for offering healthy food choices, raising awareness about nutrition, and engaging participants in menu planning and food preparation.

Quick and Tasty Recipes for Healthy Youth (PDF)
This collection of easy-to-follow, healthy recipes was developed by the NYS 4-H Youth Development and Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences.

Easy Meals & Snacks: A Healthy Cookbook for Teens (PDF)
This resource from the California Department of Public Health offers nutrition information and links; resources for teen families; shopping tips; basic information on cooking and food safety; and teen-friendly, healthy recipes.

In Defense of Food Curriculum
From PBS LearningMedia, this curriculum helps students learn why it is important to eat healthfully, investigate how food companies influence their food choices, and create action plans for changing their eating habits. The curriculum is based on the work of Michael Pollan.

Food Day Curriculum
Designed for upper elementary and middle school students, this curriculum offers five lessons to teach children the importance of eating real, fresh food, cutting back on processed foods, and advocating for a healthier community. The lessons may be taught in sequence on the week of October 24 in celebration of Food Day, or used individually at any time.

Mindless Eating
Brian Wansink, author of the book Mindless Eating, developed this website to help people make better choices for healthy eating. It includes One Page Wonders -- activities for K-12 and college -- as well as Full Class Session Modules.

Come and Get It (PDF)
Offered by ETR Associates, this health curriculum is for high school students in alternative school settings. The program helps students develop knowledge and skills that support healthy nutrition and physical activity. Free download.

Resources for Young People

The Nemours Foundation provides guidance on a range of topics, including:
Created by the Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this website is intended to help girls age 10-16 learn about health, growing up, and a range of issues they may face.

Planned Parenthood: For Teens
Planned Parenthood's web pages for teens include:

Sex, Etc.
This Rutgers University website for teens offers a range of resources:

Center for Young Women's Health
With this website, Children's Hospital Boston aims to improve girls' understanding of normal health and development.

Young Men's Health
Developed by Children's Hospital Boston, this website focuses on issues related to the health and development of boys and young men.

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