You’re a youth worker. Your work with young people creates social change to ensure a future that is equal, just, sustainable. Big ideals, personally rewarding but not what you could call a glamorous profession with great pay and benefits. But you love it, you’re a passionate youth worker!
Truth is, there are days when you need to find new inspiration, to remind yourself of all the reasons you do this work, to reaffirm your belief in the power of youth, and reignite your personal passion. Where do you turn?
Tune in to The Passionate Youth Worker podcast. Each episode highlights an incredible youth worker from around the globe. We shine a spotlight on their personal story and explore their passion for serving young people. You’ll feel connected and part of a vibrant community of like-minded people.
March 31, 2021 Season 1 Episode 25
Minnesota, United States: Emily Fulton-Foley’s passion is uplifting youth voice and youth power in areas usually dominated by adults. She artfully empowers young people to channel their passion to impact positive change in the world. She reminds us of the power of empathy and acceptance. When we accept that there’s no one right way to be, we allow young people to be the way they are. We need to provide grace for ourselves and others in that recognition and understanding.
March 29, 2021 Season 1 Episode 24
Minnesota, United States: Jaleeza Smith-Breedlove is a social worker and a youth worker. She sees that distinction as a kind of freedom. As a youth worker, she is focused on irradicating the barriers for youth to be great. What guides her work was a lesson learned from her mom; “No one can live this life alone. No one has just one teacher.” She wants to charge all youth workers to be irrationally crazy about every child.
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March 16, 2021 Season 1 Episode 23
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands: Roxann Wake-Forbes always wanted to help young people. Her empathy and compassion for others is just who she is. And she brings all of herself to the work, creating a home and a family for young people at her center. She says, “Let’s really pour into our young people as much as we can and let’s listen to them. Allow them to grow, help to water them so they can bloom and flourish and feel empowered.”
March 1, 2021 Season 1 Episode 22
Minnesota, United States: Marty Lukaszewski knew in elementary school that he wanted to become a teacher and a coach. He says working with young people is his greatest reward, “Knowing that you helped them do their best to become the best that they can be.” Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014, his own service dog became a perfect metaphor with a student, “Think about me kind of as your service dog, I’m going to be there to help you when you need help.”
February 5, 2021 Season 1 Episode 21
Minnesota, United States: Sara Morris-Perry recalls how conversations with her mom made always made her feel connected and respected. She learned there was something special in that kind of connection and it’s what drew her to become a youth worker. Suddenly losing her sight caused her to re-evaluate everything. But she was determined to make something of her life and when she was able to return to youth work, she says it felt like home, she was back doing what she loved.
January 6, 2021 Season 1 Episode 20
Minnesota, United States: Dan Huebsch recalls the joy he felt in third grade being paired with a Big Brother high schooler. That experience planted the seed for how he wanted to be that person for others when he grew up. His parents, and especially his grandma Wanda, shaped his lifelong commitment to being involved in community and making things better for others. He knows firsthand how the power of one caring, trusting person to walk alongside somebody really can a big difference.
December 17, 2020 Season 1 Episode 19
Minnesota, United States: Kaitlin Comfort sees her life and work guided by two traits learned from her parents; her father’s willingness to question everything and her mother’s confidence. Ironically, with a last name of Comfort, she says her greatest strength comes from learning to be uncomfortable. Being in uncomfortable situations has taught her the courage to follow her path and do what she thinks is right.
December 17, 2020 Season 1 Episode 18
Minnesota, United States: Anne Parish grew up as an only child whose parents allowed her expressive, free spirit to flourish. Her mother’s spunk and tenacity, combined with her father’s constant reminder that all you can do is love, shape how she partners with young people on their journey to becoming adults. She once aspired to be a dance therapist and has a unique perspective on how youth work is like jazz; being great takes knowing how to improvise.
November 20, 2020 Season 1 Episode 17
Minnesota, United States: Mike Tikkanen is a passionate and unapologetic advocate for the welfare of abused and neglected kids in Minnesota, the United States, and around the world. You can hear his sheer determination to effect systemic change as he shares how abuse shaped him and put him on this path to end generational child abuse. This is not an easy episode to listen to so be aware if you may be triggered. But he also offers perspective and help for anyone doing work with young people.
December 7, 2020 Season 1 Episode 16
Minnesota, United States: Richard Coffey’s parents lived to give back to others and those lessons of giving brought him to serve youth. He recalls every conversation with his mother ended with her asking, “Who did you help today?” Giving back, giving more than he receives, fills him with hope and happiness every day. He knows the work is tough, the young people are not always easy to work with, yet he just deals with everyone with love. Just love.
November 18, 2020 Season 1 Episode 15
Guam, United States: Juanita Blaz overcame a fear of public speaking to step into her role as program director of Island Girl Power and discovered the power of speaking from her heart. Strong family role models taught her to be a kind, giving person. And life’s struggles and traumas taught her a strength that grounds her in empathy and respect. She reminds youth workers ‘your purpose is really to offer an extension of yourself that teaches people that they can do more.’ Bring an honest, open version of yourself to serve with heartfelt understanding.
November 9, 2020 Season 1 Episode 14
Minnesota, United States: Mary McRoy was in 5th grade when she first knew she was born to serve others. She’s made social work her career and says the reward of the work is that it continues to confirm she’s doing what she was meant to do. She says youth work should be rooted in love, compassion, and kindness because kids who need love the most are going to ask for it in the most unloving ways. Kids do well when they can. We do what’s right to do.
October 26, 2020 Season 1 Episode 13
Minnesota, United States: Brandon Brooks credits being a ‘Navy brat’ whose family moved often for showing him how to connect with people, an asset he uses now in working with young people. He calls us all to be a person young people can trust will do their best for them. He says young people need us to listen to them and allow them to lead. The way he views youth work relationships is enlightening and offers optimism for the change.
October 12, 2020 Season 1 Episode 12
Minnesota, United States: Brandon Jones knows the job of a youth worker is to be a role model, to engage, to encourage, to help young people even when you might not see the fruits of your labor. It’s challenging work. Yet he encourages us to try our best to do whatever we can for a young person. They will see that you care and hopefully they will take pieces of that on their journey so that they can have a better life.
September 28, 2020 Season 1 Episode 11
Pennsylvania, United States: Melissa Perkins grew up in Pittsburgh and later Miami. Two contrasting experiences taught her the importance of instilling in young people a sense of belonging, that they have a community they fit into, that they belong somewhere, especially our LGBTQ youth. Like many, she kind of fell into youth work. Now 25 years later, she says she’s more personally invested because she wants to make sure LGBTQ youth are able to thrive.
September 14, 2020 Season 1 Episode 10
Minnesota, United States: Deb Nebosis grew up where everybody in the community watched out for each other. The idea that ‘it takes a village’ is at the heart of her youth work. As VP of Resource Development for Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota, she describes the caring community and supportive relationships at every level of her organization, all to benefit youth. She reminds us our work is to remove injustices so every young person has an opportunity for success.
July 31, 2020 Season 1 Episode 9
Maryland, United States: Dr. Laurel James learned the significance of service to others from her close Caribbean community, especially her father, and great grandmother. She sees hope in the social engagement of young people today and reminds us to be present to young people. Doing youth work is a calling, truly a vocation, wake up and feel this passion inside of you boiling in your belly. We’re here to make a difference in a young person’s life.
July 21, 2020 Season 1 Episode 8
Kaduna, Nigeria: Ibrahim Yusuf lives his dream to work with youth with all his heart. Deeply loved but not always accepted by his parents, he started making poor choices in life. But everything changed when a mentor took him in, believed in him, and said “you are bigger than what you are doing.” That put hope in him and now he does the same for others through his Triumphant Youth Foundation.
July 9, 2020 Season 1 Episode 7
Minnesota, United States: Colleen O’Neil felt she didn’t have a person she could be 100% honest with growing up. That experience shapes how she works with young people today. She knows young people want us to be genuine, honest, and always let them feel that they’re being heard. They respect and gravitate toward that. When we are authentic, sincere, and truly do sit back and listen is when we can do the best work with them.
Different Wasn’t In My Vocabulary
July 07, 2020 Season 1 Episode 6
Lusaka, Zambia: Tapela Banda says ‘different’ was never in her vocabulary growing up, she saw everyone just as human. She didn’t like the fact that society would stigmatize and discriminate against others for being different and that drives her passion for youth work now. She shares a beautiful belief in humanity, reminding us that somebody out there depends on our voice, depends on us. Keep speaking and keep being the light.
Not Your Prototypical Male
June 9, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Minnesota, United States: Drew Althoff realized at an early age that he wasn’t a prototypical male. He calls his path to youth work a slow evolution, born from the desire to be a dad. He dedicates himself to being the adult he yearned for growing up, offering unconditional love to the young people he serves. Drew is all about lifting people up, meeting them where they need to be met, with hope in your heart.
June 1, 2020 Season 1 Episode 4
Lusaka, Zambia: Mwape Chibuye grew up in Zambia, grateful for whatever she had and eager to share what she had to help others. She reflects on the mixture of good and challenges she moved through in her own life, crediting her mother’s support. A passionate youth advocate, Mwape says young people are hungry to make a difference and if they're given the right opportunities, they'll do that and maximize them to make even better opportunities.
May 14, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3
Ontario, Canada: Angela Hill always knew she wanted to be a youth worker. Growing up with an alcoholic parent instilled a passion and empathy to help others. She shares an uplifting perspective that fuels her ability to find the good in others every day, even when the work is difficult. She sees herself as an “aha junkie,” thriving on sparking those moments when youth workers and young people gain real insight to grow.
Love Transforms Lives
May 4, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
Utah, United States: Tua Kealoha seems born to be a youth worker; a Samoan heritage grounded in taking care of others and a Hawaiian name meaning ‘love.’ But his path began as a gang member. Now he’s a gang prevention specialist, using his own life experience and love to help other young people transform their lives.
Youth Work is Addicting
April 28, 2020 Season 1 Episode 1
Minnesota, United States: Sarah Barott has a surprising view of youth work as addicting. She’s a high school special education teacher who is inspired by her student’s grit. She shares how their small successes provide her motivation to be her most authentic self and how that has led her to feel grateful to work with young people.
Your ability to positively impact young people matters deeply to us. We hope that The Passionate Youth Worker keeps you inspired for your life-changing work. Be sure to sign up to get new podcast notifications and we’ll let you know when an episode is published.
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