Managing Challenge and Celebrating Accomplishments

Youth draw on resources to fulfill challenging roles and internalize accomplishment.

In SEL Challenge programs, youth experienced accomplishment in two different ways:

  • Youth draw on resources to successfully fulfill roles and obligations. Resources include drawing on inner strength, commitment, or newfound resolve; a sense of obligation to their peers and the program goals; and/or leaders’ support and encouragement.
  • Youth succeed in their roles and internalize the experience of having fulfilled valued roles.

When faced with difficulties, youth must draw on resources to fortify their resolve. Some youth draw on inner strength: “I’m not a quitter,” or “My mom taught me to always finish everything I start.” Many youth are influenced by their sense of accountability to their peers, the staff, or the people they are serving. As youth become collaborators and friends with peers in the program, discovery of new feelings of solidarity with and accountability to peers becomes an important force.

As youth see how others depend on them and how their actions affect others, they recognize the shared investment they’ve made with peers, and meeting their obligations becomes a moral imperative. The value youth place on their roles in the programs and the promises they’ve made to people who have become important to them become a resource to draw on to resist other attractions. A participant from Youth on Board described how commitment to the rest of the team provided the impetus to keep going when the burden of responsibility was heavy:

Quote markI have a responsibility not only to myself but to everyone else because I agreed to do this as my part of the team and finish it. The freedom of it and the responsibility that came with it was really life changing.

Although youth have chosen to take on challenging roles by participating in their Social and emotional learning (SEL) Challenge programs, they sometimes need strong sources of motivation and encouragement to draw on to fulfill their roles. Using the resources available to them—encouragement from staff and peers, inner strength, a sense of commitment and integrity—offers youth opportunities to succeed in their roles and experience the resulting sense of accomplishment.

As youth experience success in a role or obligation, they often feel a sense of pride and satisfaction, both individually and collectively. They feel more competent and more capable of taking on greater responsibilities. Some report feeling eager to take on more and bigger roles. Fulfilling a challenging role that impacts others is not a common experience among American youth. For youth in out-of-school programs, it is often a very positive experience. As Paul Griffin, Founder and President of The Possibility Project (TPP), mentioned, it can be powerful for youth in SEL Challenge programs to be recognized openly when they have successfully fulfilled a responsibility:

Quote markFor many of our youth, this recognition is rare and cements the value of responsibility in their lives.

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How does your program define success? How do youth know they’ve met that definition?