Values & Beliefs

The intent of this document is to state the underlying values and beliefs of the Pittsfield Youth Workshop, and to help guide program practice – including planning of activities and interaction of staff and volunteers with youth participants, families, the school and community. 

  1. We believe that all youth need opportunities to build self-esteem, and that labels and stereotypes are damaging. We acknowledge that some youth are afforded more opportunities than others, but all young people in a community benefit when they have equal access to the same groups, activities and programs. Negative social stereotypes are overcome through diversity. When youth have opportunities to get together in meaningful ways with others who they perceive as different from them, it enhances personal growth and strengthens community.
  2. We believe that all youth should have equal and fair access to youth resources in their community. Access to community resources should be easier than access to drugs, criminal activity, exposure to violence and other risks associated with destructive behaviors. We know that youth will choose to participate in a program when they perceive that it is for them- when it “fits them.” We know that accomplishing this requires thoughtful program design, careful planning, broad but well-matched outreach, skilled implementation, as well as critical and inclusive evaluation. Programs should be developmentally appropriate and sensitive to the local culture.
  3. We believe that youth hold strong identifications to their community, and that these identifications influence their development. We know that young people often infer societal expectations of them by the prevailing public image of their community. We believe that youth feel pride as a member of their community when: 1) their community is a place they hold in a positive light, and a place they want to live; and 2) they have a personal connection as a contributing member of their community. We believe that youth need to be supported to find their talents, to make them feel they are important to the community. We believe that young people develop positive attitudes and behaviors when they feel like they matter in their community.
  4. We believe that all youth need a place where they feel safe, supported and nurtured. Everyone needs to feel that they belong somewhere; that they have a place where they “fit in,” and where they feel others “believe in” them. We believe that it is the right of every adolescent to have a connection to something, to someone. When adolescents have this sense of belonging and security, they are able to engage in honest, respectful relationships with peers and adults. When they are free to be themselves, they are also free to grow and discover their outer limits and their full potential as human beings. 
  5. We believe in supporting the need for youth to be with other youth. Everyone needs to feel connected. Young people need opportunities to be together. When teens gather in groups it does not constitute bad or disruptive activity, but represents normal adolescent development. Youth need opportunities to discover who they are in relation to their peers. Adolescents need opportunities to “look out for each other,” and will create those opportunities with or without the help of adults. We believe that with the support of adults, young people have more enhanced opportunities to develop healthy, respectful relationships with their peers.
  6. We believe in understanding the whole person. We believe that adolescents need to be understood in the context of their lives- that they are influenced by a myriad of stressors, supports, and continuously changing life circumstances. We believe that youth really do want the chance to be known, to be understood, to be a part of something and to be given responsibility. We know that young people want the opportunity to “be themselves without getting in trouble for it.” We know that young people need healthy avenues to express themselves, and that adults need to be cautious about labeling self-expression as “weird,” “acting out” or “unacceptable behavior.” When youth feel wholly understood, they are more able to engage honestly, develop fully and contribute generously.
  7. We believe all youth need role models and mentors. Although parents are a primary influence, particularly for pre-school age children, other adults become increasingly important to youth as they mature. We believe that youth need guidance and modeling from adults in their community. We also believe that many older teenagers, as well as adults, can fill this critical role. Mentors and role models can provide young people with a kind of “road map” for navigating life. We believe in mentoring as a youth development and prevention strategy for youth mentors as well as mentees. Youth, adults and communities are changed through mentoring.
  8. We hold an open view of the concept of family. We recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes, and that young people whose family configurations appear outside the societal norm are often shunned and/or targets of violence. We believe that common societal views of single parents, same sex parents, families in poverty or on welfare, parents without a high school diploma, incarcerated parents, children raised by extended family members…etc. can contribute to isolation and alienation for those youth. We realize that “normal” does not mean “healthy,” and that what is viewed as “dysfunctional” to some may be entirely functional in the context of another’s life. We know that family means many different things to different adolescents, and that peer and societal acceptance of their family is an important factor to that young person’s overall well being. We acknowledge these differences and celebrate the strengths of everyone’s family.
  9. We believe in supporting the success of all youth. We believe that risk factors such as poverty or parental loss are obstacles but not barriers, and do not necessarily determine behavior, achievement or success. We also believe that individual strengths and talents are often hidden behind difficult conditions in a young person’s life, and in this lies the damaging effects of labeling someone by their life circumstances. We believe that one’s success or failure should not be measured against the performance of another, because everyone needs to determine for themselves their own criterion for success. We encourage the use of language that is respectful, inclusive, non-judging, and descriptive rather than branding.
  10. We believe in giving young people opportunities to make their own decisions. We believe that as young people grow, they need opportunities to problem-solve, take safe risks, be responsible in their lives and understand their responsibility to others, and to develop a sense of accountability for their own decisions and actions. We know that as all human beings do, young people will sometimes make poor or unhealthy choices. We believe that youth need chances to make their own decisions and learn by their mistakes, but also need the guidance of caring adults to develop strong personal decision-making skills.