How strong is your passion for youth work? It’s an important question because your work with young people creates social change to ensure a future that is equal, just, and sustainable.
Personal growth and self-reflection are the source of passion and the foundation of good youth work. Be yourself! Lean into your unique life experiences and be your most authentic self.
The Passionate Youth Worker podcast reveals how youth workers turn their life stories into a passion for service. Listen to be inspired and consider how your life experiences influence your youth work.
The Passionate Youth Worker podcast is your invitation to explore your own life experiences by listening to other’s personal stories. Join me, Paul Meunier, the executive director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association, as I interview youth workers from around the globe to reveal how their unique life experiences impact their work. Tune in and be inspired to consider how your story uniquely impacts your youth work.
November 20, 2023 Season 4 Episode 14
Minnesota, United States: Yaya Cochran is the living definition of being a servant youth worker. Her selfless nature and servant heart compel her to create a world where children are able to show up as their most authentic selves. She does that with such passion, commitment, and truly remarkable altruism. Her story offers a rare opportunity to consider your own youth work in a much bigger way.
Accessibility Options: Watch the unedited video interview with subtitles or read the edited podcast transcript by visiting this podcast's web page.
November 6, 2023 Season 4 Episode 13
Pennsylvania, United States: Michelle Kissinger has literally made her life a work of art. She explores her primal wound of being abandoned as a child and her search to find healing and growth from that trauma. Her story is an ode to self-awareness, being inquisitive, and her durability. She invites us “to bring the arts more deeply into our model of care for youth and youth workers to help them sustain themselves more deeply, and handle the heavy emotional labor that we all carry, working alongside the youth that we care so deeply for.”
Visit Michelle’s website, [ree-sheyp] your story (pronounced reshape your story), to learn more about her work.
Accessibility Options: Watch the unedited video interview with subtitles or read the edited podcast transcript by visiting this podcast's web page.
More Ways to Learn and Grow
The Art and Science of Youth Work certificate blends technical competency with personal growth strategies so you'll be your best for young people.
You and your team have unlimited access to Live and On-Demand online training to improve a youth worker's knowledge, skills, and confidence.
October 23, 2023 Season 4 Episode 12
California, United States: Alyssa Clark grew up a shy child and often felt alone even in her big family. She felt safest staying out of the limelight, staying quiet. But even at a young age, she recognized that as a kind of fear. Through connections with caring adults, she learned to push through her fear. And she turned her own life experience into a mission of helping others. Her insights will inspire you.
Accessibility Options: Watch the unedited video interview with subtitles or read the edited podcast transcript by visiting this podcast's web page.
October 9, 2023 Season 4 Episode 11
California, United States: Josh Wagner had an unimaginably hard start in childhood. His parents were consumed by addiction, he was separated from his brother at the age of three, and was out on his own by age eight. In and out of trouble until a foster mom changed his life. His story is a powerful example of how your past does not define you. He says being a social worker, helping young people, is the most rewarding work he’s ever done.
October 5, 2023 Season 4 Episode 10
Minnesota, United States: Allie Birdseye-Hannula has the heart of a teacher and a curious nature that helps her keep learning and growing. Self-awareness and practical self-reflection are strengths she relies on to improve her youth work skills. Through trial and error, she developed communication tools to engage more effectively with youth who are demonstrating prickly personalities in the moment. And she’s turned her learning into a book she hopes will help other youth workers, too.
September 25, 2023 Season 4 Episode 9
Minnesota, United States: Princess Awa-Ada Kisob seems like a natural born leader and she always knew she wanted to be a youth worker. She started her own nonprofit as a young teen to support immigrant and refugee youth. Princess follows her mother’s lead as a fighter, an advocate, and a generous spirt. She leads quietly, being present, centering and creating space for others.
September 11, 2023 Season 4 Episode 8
Florida, United States: Dr. Paul “Paulie” Gavoni is a behavior scientist, educator, author, and speaker. He shares how his lived experience opened up the path for how he could help others. His insights about human behavior and the need to become a keen observer of your own behavior and how it impacts young people will give you plenty of food for thought.
Visit https://linqapp.com/paul_gavoni?r=link to find his books and connect.
August 28, 2023 Season 4 Episode 7
Kingston, Jamaica: Odane Brooks is a leading voice in Jamaica and the Caribbean on issues of public policy and youth leadership. His story is told through the lens of his leadership experience, sharing practical wisdom and inspiration for all youth workers. And his thoughts about the importance of inclusion and empowerment for young people will surely resonate with you.
You can also listen to Odane’s own podcast that was mentioned in this episode. Elevata Live with Odane.
August 14, 2023 Season 4 Episode 6
Lilongwe, Malawi: Sylvester Chabuka grew up in Malawi, the poorest country in the world. He, like many children in Malawi, suffered the effects of extreme poverty and malnutrition. But his grandmother instilled in him an unshakeable belief that there was no challenge he could not solve. Now he is solving the problem of malnutrition for children throughout his country and the world. His story will amaze and inspire you.
July 31, 2023 Season 4 Episode 5
Minnesota, United States: Ryan Berg found his way to youth work through his career in theater. Drawn to the impact of storytelling and impactful engagement with community, he took a job as a mentor for LGBTQI youth and found his fit. He shares his story with insight and self-awareness that humbly illuminates what all youth workers know about trust. And sprinkles in nuggets of wisdom for those who wish to grow.
July 17, 2023 Season 4 Episode 4
Minnesota, United States: Soua Thao shares their ongoing journey of fully stepping into their queer and Asian identities. The challenges they face and lessons they're learning along the way all inform how they show up for the young people they serve. They have embraced the opportunity at QUEERSPACE collective to be their full self in their job. And you’ll hear why they think that is so important for all youth workers as well.
July 5, 2023 Season 4 Episode 3
Minnesota, United States: Angie Erickson, as you’ll hear, is accomplished yet humble like so many youth workers. She has an optimistic outlook and is especially intentional about using self-reflection as a kind of compass to keep her on track for moving forward with what she sets out to do. What gives her hope is seeing how young people are changing the world.
June 19, 2023 Season 4 Episode 2
Khomas Region, Namibia: Ndiilokelwa Nthengwe is an artist at heart and her story reflects the creative ways she brings both her art and her heart so fully into all that she does as an advocate and activist for LGBTQIA+ folks and young people. She has accomplished much in a short time but as you’ll hear, she’s still stretching to do more to help young people become leaders in whatever way they can.
June 5, 2023 Season 4 Episode 1
California, United States: Brad Fulton never sought to be a teacher or to work with young people. But he came to believe God created him for this purpose. And when he stopped struggling against that, he really found a passion for making a difference. His story is an honest take on the ups and downs that led him to value being connected to his purpose by creating positive connections with young people.
May 22, 2023 Season 3 Episode 26
Minnesota, United States: Marquise Bowie took a difficult path through his young years into adulthood. Involvement with drugs, gangs, guns, and trauma led to a 12-year prison term. But that’s when his transformation happened. He says he’s got a masters in disasters and he uses his life lessons now to transform street energy into community energy with young people. His humility is an inspiration and a lesson to us all.
May 8, 2023 Season 3 Episode 25
Minnesota, United States: Peter Wieczorek has drawn on his life experience to shape his own ideal career serving young people. Now he can’t imagine doing anything else. His optimism for and about young people inspires him as much as it does them. He always finds something to smile about and his story may make you smile too.
April 24, 2023 Season 3 Episode 24
Minnesota, United States: Jade Schleif is YIPA’s training coordinator. She honed her ability to build trusting relationships as a youth worker and brings that same ability to her work for youth workers now. Her impact is literally global! And her care, compassion, and curiosity are endless. She shares her struggles with anxiety and depression as openly as she shares her strengths and successes. You’ll feel like you’re listening to a friend.
April 10, 2023 Season 3 Episode 23
New York, United States: Jeff Dwyer has always charted his own course. He knows that comes with both the good and the bad, but it makes him who he is. And he doesn’t regret his experiences. He’s got an inner strength and drive that he relies on. But as you’ll hear, he’s a softy at heart when it comes to working with young people!
March 27, 2023 Season 3 Episode 22
Pennsylvania, United States: A.J.Rinaldi embodies a determination to pursue being the best that he can be for young people and helping others do the same. He is a motivational speaker, leadership coach, and youth development consultant whose stories will enlighten, inform, and inspire you. His wholehearted devotion to service shines through his words. This episode is a must listen!
March 13, 2023 Season 3 Episode 21
London, England: Vanessa Rogers brings her whole self to her work for young people with a unique combination of self-awareness, humility, and honesty. She has had her own challenges and learned to use them to better hear and understand the young people she works with. She’s always looking for creative ways to connect and inspire growth.
February 27, 2023 Season 3 Episode 20
California, United States: Jack Witt has an innate passion for people development. He intensely understands the need for self-awareness in service to others. His story is a thoughtful exploration of the dynamics of our relationships with young people and with ourselves.
February 13, 2023 Season 3 Episode 19
Southern District of Malawi: Catherine Kita was just 13 years old when she took on inequity for girls in Malawi. Her experience with the normal but difficult stage of getting her period sparked a fire in her to speak out in spite of cultural norms and taboos. She started a movement to address period poverty and challenged her government to make changes. Her vision, courage, and compassion make this an amazing story you have to hear.
January 30, 2023 Season 3 Episode 18
Eastern Region of Uganda: Abubaker Sekatuka views the experiences of his life as stories that have helped him become who he is. Though some of his childhood experiences were tough, and he’s had his share of challenges and pain, he somehow finds the positive. Telling his stories is a strength born of struggle. It takes courage to be honest and transparent but he knows that is how he helps others.
January 17, 2023 Season 3 Episode 17
Minnesota, United States: Francis Yengistic seems to see the good in everything. Though his own circumstances growing up were difficult, the guidance and support of his beloved grandmother made it possible to view life full of hope and optimism. He’s dedicated his life to service. He shares his story and lessons from his grandmother, to help young people and youth workers believe in themselves, too.
January 3, 2023 Season 3 Episode 16
St Catherine, Jamaica: Clayton Bolton did not have access to many resources or opportunities growing up as a child in Jamaica. But what he did have was an innate drive and resourcefulness to do better for himself and his family. It has helped him excel and now he shares those lessons to help other young people.
December 19, 2022 Season 3 Episode 15
Minnesota, United States: Joanne Rice is YIPA’s member satisfaction specialist. She has dedicated her entire professional life to service and brings a wealth of experience to share with us. Joanne is known as the calm in a storm and she just loves helping others find positives to focus on. Her success centers on listening to others with curiosity and following their lead.
December 5, 2022 Season 3 Episode 14
Kampala, Uganda: Angel Pearl Talemwa grew up in a small village in Africa. Poverty, lack of opportunities, limited access to education all thrived there. She endured abuse from her father. Her mother died when she was just ten years old. But her indomitable spirit drove her to go beyond every barrier. She held firm to her belief in herself and pursued her vision. Now she helps others see possibilities beyond their persistent barriers.
November 21, 2022 Season 3 Episode 13
New Mexico, United States: Megan Cederberg is fiercely determined to be fully authentic in everything she does. And she does so many things! Her creative, entrepreneurial side drives her to explore ways to engage young people and inspire them through her own lived experience. Megan always shows up and always shares the power of giving back.
November 8, 2022 Season 3 Episode 12
Tennessee, United States: Travis Claybrooks approaches service with an uncommon perspective of discernment and deeply rooted faith. His life’s work focuses on addressing harm and trauma. He reminds us to follow the throb in our chest about making a difference in the world.
October 24, 2022 Season 3 Episode 11
New Mexico, United States: Selena Bejarano has followed her faith to take on big challenges and not let fear stop her. As she says, you do it scared. And that has worked out okay but more importantly, showed her so many ways to grow in the process. She’s a true servant leader, committed to helping others even in the most difficult circumstances. Through all the seasons of her life, she learns and grows as she goes.
October 10, 2022 Season 3 Episode 10
Minnesota, United States: Nallely Castro Montoya learned early on to do what you can to support others. But doing so also taught her an invaluable lesson about being more empathetic toward herself. It is a guiding principle that shapes who she is and how she works with young people. And it’s a call to action for every youth worker’s self-care.
September 26, 2022 Season 3 Episode 9
Minnesota, United States: Barbara Van Deinse never envisioned youth work as a career option. But when her corporate career started to feel less fulfilling, she knew she wanted to make a bigger contribution and work to foster change in the world. Then YIPA’s job opening grabbed her heart and she joined this community of people all working together for positive change. She’s become a youth worker at heart and is proud to belong!
September 12, 2022 Season 3 Episode 8
Central Region, Uganda: Florence Bugembe grew up with 13 siblings and didn’t always have a stable family life, food on the table, or real opportunity. But to her, every challenge was an opportunity. Her own experience is a lesson she shares to help others in their struggles. Just because you’re going through a tough time, don’t let it stop you from becoming who you want to be.
August 29, 2022 Season 3 Episode 7
Michigan, United States: Ta’Shena Sams is humble and selfless in her service to young people. She’s been involved in youth programming almost her whole life, both as a participant and a practitioner. She honors her Native teachings and culture by always wanting the best for everyone. Nothing makes her happier than seeing young people succeed.
August 15, 2022 Season 3 Episode 6
Minnesota, United States: Felix Martinez-Paz used the difficulties and challenges of his upbringing as a way to understand himself better. With that understanding, he developed a clear vision of his values. He chose to break away from old stereotypes and now shares what he’s learned to help other young men.
August 1, 2022 Season 3 Episode 5
Minnesota, United States: Anne LaFrinier-Ritchie had to hit rock bottom to discover the kind of perseverance needed to achieve the life she wanted for herself. Drawing on her Indigenous values to see we need a community of people that care about us for us to be fully whole and healthy. Now she brings those value of connection, authenticity, and care to her work with young people. And teaches others to do the same.
July 18, 2022 Season 3 Episode 4
Nairobi Kenya: Tom Osborn was on a kind of predestined path to become a lawyer. But when his mom’s health was challenged, it became a turning point in his life. He knew he needed to put his passion into helping others. And he sought a big, bold change. He is driving a new way to help young people with their mental health. Listen in and to learn more, check out his TED Talk.
July 5, 2022, Season 3 Episode 3
Washington, United States: Tim Johnson grew up in poverty and experienced homelessness as a young person. But through all the difficult days it was the strength of his parents that gave him the moral compass to find a good path for himself. Along the way, he discovered his love for serving other young people and his passion for giving back. His story is an inspiration.
June 20, 2022 Season 3 Episode 2
Tennessee, United States: Khalilah Horton-Spencer was brought up learning that if you put your hands to any type of work, you autograph your work with excellence. That lesson still informs and inspires her every day. She is driven to serve with love and determination. And she infuses her youth work with these lessons to instill confidence and empower young people. Accessibility Options: Watch the unedited video interview with subtitles or read the edited podcast transcript by visiting this podcast's web page
June 6, 2022 Season 3 Episode 1
California, United States: Deon Price has taken every life lesson he’s learned and crafted them into practical wisdom he shares to guide young people. He’s transformed a traumatic upbringing into an unwavering passion for youth work. His stories are motivational and inspirational at the same time. You can learn more about him at www.deondprice.com.
May 23, 2022 Season 2 Episode 26
Minnesota, United States: Brian Andrews fell into the hole of addiction and alcohol abuse in his early years. He lost his kids, he lost his house, he even lost himself. He was helped by caring adults coming alongside him that kept pouring into him, offering hope, helping him see his own value. Now, he does that for hundreds of young people through his own story and life example.
May 09, 2022 Season 2 Episode 25
California, United States: Michelle Atencion shares a story of personal growth through life experiences and various roles in youth work. She has gained a unique perspective on the importance of being consistently there for young people, no matter what. When a struggling young person figures out that she is someone in the world that cares about them, she sees it as just giving back to the misunderstood.
April 25, 2022 Season 2 Episode 24
Minnesota, United States: J.T. Evans absolutely embodies energy and enthusiasm. His excitement for the work he does with young people is electric! Hearing him talk about how he builds relationships and helps instill skills and an appreciation of the learning process with young people will surely energize you. And you’ll get a taste of his youth work in the Hot Cheetos and Takis rap his young people created. Enjoy!
Watch the Hot Cheetos and Takis video.
April 11, 2022 Season 2 Episode 23
Missouri, United States: Sherrita Allen is a person of faith who lives her values in a beautiful way through her work with young people. She genuinely believes there is good in everyone. Even in her role counseling survivors of sex trafficking, she leads with love. She shares her story with pure vulnerability and trust.
March 28, 2022 Season 2 Episode 22
Minnesota, United States: Marquita Butler was very fortunate to grow up surrounded by family, friends, teachers, and coaches willing to invest in her. She credits their guidance, support, and encouragement for opening a world of possibilities for her to consider. Now, she does the same for young people and reminds us how much our mentoring matters.
March 14, 2022 Season 2 Episode 21
Guam, United States: Samantha Taitano says she has an itch in her body to always be moving, always be doing things to help others, and always be learning. It’s a trait she learned from her father and a value that drives her choices daily. Her many interests and pursuits are outlets for taking care of herself so that she is at 100% when working with youth and families.
February 28, 2022 Season 2 Episode 20
Minnesota, United States: Dustin Anderson is known by the nickname “Smiley” and when you hear him speak, you know it suits him. He exudes enthusiasm and positivity, traits that define his work with young people. He lives the belief that to be the best youth worker you can be, you need to develop self-awareness and nurture it with self-reflection. Being your own CEO is about practicing those skills.
February 14, 2022 Season 2 Episode 19
West Yorkshire, England: Joshua Alade is a man of profound passion and perseverance. He speaks from his heart about what drives him to dream such big dreams for systemic change. He learned from his mother the importance of helping others and her memory sustains him in this difficult work. He is a fierce advocate for education and opportunity for young people. His remarkable determination is a superpower to make change happen.
January 31, 2022 Season 2 Episode 18
Minnesota, United States: Sarah Mangan is grateful to have survived a dive into drug and alcohol abuse as a young adult. She shares her story with such candor and vulnerability because of the valuable lessons she has learned from the experience. And she knows those lessons learned about finding healthy connection with people will be of great use to young people. Through her youth work, she hopes to help them see themselves in a different perspective also.
January 10, 2022 Season 2 Episode 17
Washington, United States: Linsay Hill tells a too familiar story of a childhood immersed in trauma, violence, and abuse. Early exposure to trauma and unhealthy behaviors created challenges into her adult life. But that also drew her to helping others. To break the cycle of generational trauma, she began therapy. Through therapy, she learned to honor her authentic self. She found a way of speaking life into those young people around her, sharing her true story to help them move forward, too.
January 3, 2022 Season 2 Episode 16
Minnesota, United States: Andrew “Dhop” Hopkins used critical thinking skills to avoid the pitfalls of life-altering decisions as a young person. Growing up in a family of 10 kids, he developed the skills to relate with different personalities. He’s grateful for the people that poured themselves into him, and he’s fully comfortable doing the same for young people now. Dhop helps us remember that it is you that makes the difference in the lives of young people, not your program.
December 20, 2021 Season 2 Episode 15
Maryland, United States: Ciara Huff didn’t always know she wanted to work with young people. But that changed in college when she took a class on Criminology. She learned African American children are more likely to commit crimes and realized she needed to work with young people if she wanted to make a difference in the future. She says this is her earthly assignment. Her story reminds us our uniqueness is needed. There are people waiting and depending on you.
December 6, 2021 Season 2 Episode 14
Minnesota, United States: Wendy Lorenz-Walraven has nurtured a deep passion and commitment to genuinely create space where people can be seen and heard in ways that society doesn’t often give the time and space for. Accepting her own queer identity helps her show up fully now. She knows that being able to create space for all the ways in which young people identify whether you understand those identities or not, those are the access points that are really going to make a difference for a young person.
November 22, 2021 Season 2 Episode 13
Washington, United States: Jose “Neaners” Garcia was the youngest gang member in his community. He had shot someone by the time he was 10 years old, had a child at age 12, got shot himself at age 13. Traumatized by both parents and his surroundings, he felt his life was limited to what he saw in front of him. But a 5-year stint in solitary confinement helped him see a purpose to it all. His vision, Hope for Homies, became his calling to show young people something better.
November 8, 2021 Season 2 Episode 12
Minnesota, United States: Essence Blakemore is a fierce champion for social justice. From an early age, she could see injustice in front of her. Challenging that often got her in trouble. But with the help of an AmeriCorps mentor, she learned to use her voice and passion more effectively. Having the benefit of a kindred spirit to guide her taught her that everybody deserves to have someone in their corner because being young is hard.
October 25, 2021 Season 2 Episode 11
Monrovia, Liberia: George King has a life story that could have stopped him in his tracks. He lost his father at age 3 to the civil war in Liberia. His mother could not raise him so his aunt put him in an orphanage. But somehow George saw the blessing in this as it gave him the chance to get an education. He now gives that chance to other young children through his own foundation, Kid Care Liberia.
October 11, 2021 Season 2 Episode 10
Wisconsin, United States: Ashley Stoll’s happy, sheltered life took an unexpected turn when she entered middle school. Her parents divorced, and she and her siblings had to leave their private school and attend public school. It was a culture shock. And it was a season of losing her way trying to fit in. She’s learned through pain and loss how her deep faith sustains her. She shares that journey and faith to help young people in her own program now.
September 27, 2021 Season 2 Episode 9
Melbourne, Australia: Aaron Garth had a lightbulb moment in his 20s that set him on the path to turn his life around for good. His childhood was marked by family conflict and the trauma of losing a baby sibling. His teenage years were a time of acting out and getting in trouble with the law. He credits the persistent care and encouragement of a youth worker and a pastor to help him see that he could be more.
September 13, 2021 Season 2 Episode 8
Minnesota, United States: Christina McCoy embraced the challenges of her early years to build a resilience that continues to give her strength. Her struggles gave her opportunities to learn how she wants to be in the world and in her work. She knows she is right where she needs to be, doing the work that is meaningful to her, and having a positive impact. She shares the value of kindness and grace, especially working with young people.
August 30, 2021 Season 2 Episode 7
Kaduna, Nigeria: Maryam Aliko Mohammed is a polymath; a person with vast knowledge in many different subjects. She credits her fearless, successful parents for enabling her curiosity. Maryam shares a story of a personally humbling experience that taught her to not assume others are like her. That insight opened her eyes to the importance of youth work; to support young people as they transition from youth to adults, able to advocate for themselves and pursue their dreams.
August 16, 2021 Season 2 Episode 6
Minnesota, United States: Moriah Peterson learned to relate to others with a kind and caring heart through the experience of moving to new places throughout her childhood. She found herself drawn to befriend the kids that seemed to have less, or need more. She carried life lessons of being helped by mentors herself and helping others. Grace was extended to her when she messed up and she reminds her we can all do the same.
August 2, 2021 Season 2 Episode 5
Minnesota, United States: Carley Kammerer was only a teenager when she had to live through the experience of her mother dying. But because her mother had taught her the value of helping others, she transformed that pain and stress into a life and legacy of service. She saw a need and had the courage, grit, and faith to just start. She founded a nonprofit that provides sustainable employment for youth experiencing homelessness. Carley invites you to follow your dreams, too.
July 19, 2021 Season 2 Episode 4
Ohio, United States: Dr. Charisse Penn persevered through many ebbs and flows on her way to finding her passion. She credits her distinctly non-linear course with discovering that she could make an impact and be successful helping others be successful. While working on her doctorate, she walked away from a good paying job and began her youth work career. Speaking from her heart, she says it’s about legacy. And her legacy is about helping young people.
July 5, 2021 Season 2 Episode 03
Missouri, United States: Laura Bradshaw persevered through a less than perfect childhood and family trauma to find her own path forward. The challenges, twists, and turns of her life instilled a commitment to help others. Her courage and willingness to change are two of the gifts she shares to help young people find their own path forward. She lives and breathes hope and instills that in the young people she works with.
June 22, Season 2 Episode 2
California, United States: Rose Sargent shares her insightful story of courage and self-discovery. She was experiencing trauma at home and school. She didn’t feel like she belonged anywhere. At the unimaginably young age of 11, she just felt it would be better to leave and figure herself out. Her experience of homelessness in San Francisco uniquely prepared her to work with youth experiencing homelessness. Her view of harm reduction reminds us to support youth autonomy.
June 7, 2021 Season 2 Episode 1
Minnesota, United States: Paul Meunier launched The Passionate Youth Worker podcast to share stories of the struggles and successes that shape individual youth workers. In this first anniversary special episode, Paul shares what he’s learned from youth workers around the world. And he reveals the evolution for season 2 with a profound shift that will explore how the life experience of youth workers shapes how they work with young people. Your own personal growth and self-reflection are key.
May 24, 2021 Season 1 Episode 28
Missouri, United States: Misty Boone always knew she wanted to help others. She grew up seeing the value of sharing whatever you have to make life a little better for others. In her work with survivors of domestic violence, she gives of herself every day. She’s a realist with an optimistic outlook. And she shares her perspective about helping and hope.
May 10, 2021 Season 1 Episode 27
Minnesota, United States: Nancy Hlee Vang has learned to transform tragedies and trauma into empowerment. She found her calling to youth work during a college work study assignment serving elementary school youth. Now she is the mentor to young people that she always wished she’d had. And her greatest reward is seeing her young people grow as a result of her trusting relationships with them.
April 26, 2021 Season 1 Episode 26
Minnesota, United States: Dave Wilmes followed an uncommon path into youth work, launched by being a conscientious objector to the Viet Nam War. Driven by his natural curiosity and analytical interest in figuring things out, he saw problems that needed solving in our field. Through the years, he’s created a legacy of caring and helped hundreds of youth workers and young people develop their potential.
April 12, 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.
March 15, 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 15, 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.
February 1, 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.
January 4, 2021 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.
December 21, 2021 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you would like to share your own passion for youth work, please consider being a guest. Just complete this short form and we’ll set up a time to talk and learn more about your passion.
Our services, such as this podcast, are provided to help you be successful. We incorporate critical feedback from people like you in all of our work. Please email us at [email protected] and let us know what you think of the podcast. Your honest opinions will help us make each new episode better.
Your friends at YIPA
The Passionate Youth Worker Podcast is made possible in part by a generous donation from M Health Fairview.