The Conceptualization and Development of Youth Leadership: A Youth-Driven Model
Schnoll, Jessica Sara
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The aim of the current dissertation was to produce a model of youth leadership development, rooted in a youth engagement framework, created through the voices of youth leaders themselves. Participants were 16 youth leaders in the Respect in Schools Everywhere (RISE) Program, a school-based, youth engagement, anti-violence program. Three different qualitative methodologies were utilized to analyze the interviews of youth leaders to develop and validate this model of youth leadership development. Specifically, an inductive, cross-case and a deductive case-based thematic analysis of pre- and post-program interviews of seven youth leaders were conducted to describe and develop the model of youth leadership. A template analysis of nine other youth leaders’ post-program interviews was conducted to validate, confirm, and expand the model. A final model of youth leadership development was created that answers the following questions: (i) How do youth leaders understand and conceptualize leadership? (ii) What leadership-related development do the youth leaders report through their experience in a youth engagement program? (iii) What youth engagement programmatic practices, or mechanisms, are associated with the leadership-related outcomes? Specifically, youth conceptualized leadership as sharing knowledge, taking initiative, being a role model, having social skills, being respectful, and as a group process. For youth, leadership was seen as a collective capacity; one that relies on a team-based approach. Through applying the main tenets of youth engagement, such as meaningful involvement, opportunities to lead, and the support of a caring adult, youth endorsed development in their leadership skills, social network, self-concept, and engagement in their school and community. Overall, the findings of this study suggest that youth engagement is a promising model for developing youth leaders. Further, not only do youth have insights and skills to impact their schools and communities, but they also have important contributions to make to the development of theory and practice.