Youth Career Pathways Toolkit for YPAR

Developing key partnerships to support youth-led participatory action research in CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California Programming

Authored by Alyssa A. Nelson, Brandon Louie, Kelley Brian, and Nancy Erbstein, with Chris Gomez Wong, Rigoberto Ponce, Daisy L. Valdez, Mary Ann Mills, and Kamaljeet Singh-Khaira. 

Youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) projects center youth voice in exploring ways to create greater justice and equity in their communities. This new Youth Career Pathways Toolkit: a Guide for CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California YPAR Facilitators (October 2022) provides activities, tips, and resources with the aim of helping youth translate what they are learning in YPAR into building their own career pathways. The Toolkit is hosted on the Youth Engagement page of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC website.

Experiential education praxis and the Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach –within the wider field of practice that promotes youth agency, equity, and justice– ground the Toolkit pedagogically. Thematically arranged activities guide young people to reflect, speak, and write about their YPAR experiences; explore career and learning options; and develop skills needed in applying for jobs, scholarships, and educational programs of their choice.

The Toolkit is designed with flexibility so facilitators can implement it in multiple ways: as stand-alone activities, as a series integrated throughout a YPAR project, as a unit all together at the end of a YPAR project, or in a multi-hour event such as a regional youth symposium. This resource fills an expressed need for educator tools to help youth leverage their YPAR and other youth engagement experiences to build post-high-school pathways. Many of these activities can also be used or adapted for other youth engagement efforts that support young people to lead in improving the environments where they live, play, eat, shop, and learn.

To create the Toolkit, the authors conducted a participatory review of existing resources and a needs assessment with CFHL, UCCE county-based facilitators and supervisors who implement YPAR. Alyssa Nelson and Brandon Louie from the UC Davis Center for Regional Change created and piloted the activities in May 2022 through a day-long youth symposium at the Imperial County UCCE office and UC Desert Research and Extension Center, with the input of Nancy Erbstein in the UC Davis School of Education; Kelley Brian in the CFHL, UC State Office; and three UCCE YPAR facilitators from Imperial and Riverside counties (Christopher Gomez Wong, Rigoberto Ponce, and Daisy Valdez). This symposium drew 23 young people from four high schools in two school districts and their Career Technical Education teacher. The students and teacher provided feedback on the symposium activities throughout the day, and the facilitation team reflected together afterward. All of this joint input informed the contents, framing, and writing of the Toolkit.

The Youth Career Pathways Toolkit: a Guide for CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California YPAR Facilitators was commissioned by the CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California State Office as part of its Youth Engagement Initiative. It reflects a combination of the thinking of the CFHL, UC State Office; input from key partners and collaborators; needs expressed by the YPAR facilitators; findings of the evolving fields of YPAR and college/career readiness; and content area expertise of the UC Davis Center for Regional Change and the UC Davis School of Education.

Link to Full Toolkit, Version October 2022 (PDF, 81 pages)

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