Responsiveness to Culture and Identity

Building Block 4

building block 4

What It Means:

Programs create a safe and adaptive environment which recognizes that culture, family and personal history is core to a young person’s identity formation. 


Why It Matters:

Programs that provide young people with an opportunity to explore their identity within the context of their own culture as well as others deepen young people’s sense of self-esteem and increase their openness and understanding toward all people.


What Effective Practices Look Like:

  • Program cultivates an inclusive environment where all youth and families are welcome and respected.

  • Staff create a safe atmosphere for children and youth to explore their own identity, including cultural beliefs and practices.

  • Youth are encouraged to be their whole selves, honoring their culture, sense of self and life experiences. 

  • Program makes a genuine effort to ensure staff reflect the diverse race, gender, culture, sexual orientation, language and special needs of the young people being served.

  • Staff meet youth “where they’re at” and respond to their unique interests, needs and abilities.  Young people’s cultures are recognized and understood.

More Building Blocks

Research and Reports

University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. “Culture and Diversity.

This online page contains blogs, recommended research articles, and pre-recorded presentations on the topics of citizenship and leadership in youth programs. It’s a great way to keep up with the latest practices and resources on being responsive to young people’s culture and identity in your youth program.

Metz, R., Goldsmith, J., & Abreton, A. J. A. (April, 2008). Putting it all together: Guiding principles for quality after-school programs serving preteens. p. 9-10. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

This report lays out guiding principles and effective practices for afterschool programs to achieve quality, with an emphasis on programs serving preteens. It uses research to explain why each guiding principal is essential for effective youth programs. Pages 9-10 of the report centers around Culture and Competence.

Tools and Templates

Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA). “Enhancing the Natural Resiliance of Survival-Oriented Youth. (Online YIPA training; must be a YIPA member).

This online workshop is designed to provide adults with a foundational understanding of who survival oriented youth are, how we can provide them the structure and security they crave, and (in the process) form a relationship in which we can provide them with the help and support they deserve.

Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA). “LGBTQ Foundations: Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills.(Online YIPA training; must be a YIPA member).

This training is intentionally designed to engage you and your peers in a frank discussion about how to engage LGBTQ youth. Here is your opportunity to ask what you’ve always wanted to ask and learn about this delicate, yet highly important issue facing many youth.