Media Advisory: 'Forward Thinking: Preparing Our Youth for the Future' Is Topic of Inaugural Youth-Nex Conference at U.Va. Oct. 24-25

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October 17, 2011 — How do we ensure that our young people grow up to be well-adjusted adults? That's a question essential to the mission of a center at the University of Virginia, called Youth-Nex, and one that is at the heart of its inaugural conference, scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25.

The conference will bring together some of the nation's leading scholars, advocates, media professionals and policy leaders with the goal of formulating next steps to increase knowledge and inspire action to support youth development, said Patrick Tolan, director of the Youth-Nex Center and a professor in both U.Va.'s Curry School of Education and the College of Arts & Sciences' Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Curry School Dean Robert Pianta said of the conference, "This is one of the most concentrated clusters of expertise concerning adolescence that I've seen."

Tolan added, "We will focus on a multidimensional understanding of critical elements promoting positive youth development, including physical and mental health, engaged citizenship and beneficial relationships. This cross-area exchange by a diverse group of experts is central to our goal of creating positive change for the youth of Virginia and of the nation.

"Given the origin of the University in Thomas Jefferson's conviction that education of youth was critical to sustaining our democratic nation, we think it fitting to have this first conference take a broad look at what is vital for successful youth development. Thus, the theme of the conference is 'Forward Thinking: Preparing Our Youth for the Future,'" said Tolan, whose center is the only one in the country accommodating work on diverse aspects of youth development, including mental health, educational functioning, citizenship, social functioning and physical health.

The conference will begin Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. at Alumni Hall with remarks from Pianta; John D. Simon, U.Va.'s executive vice president and provost; and Tolan, who will introduce the keynote speaker, Richard M. Lerner.

Lerner, Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science at Tufts University and director of its Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, will discuss "Positive Youth Development: Processes, Philosophies, Programs and Prospects."

Lerner's work integrates the study of public policies and community-based programs with the promotion of positive youth development and youth contributions to civil society. He has more than 500 scholarly publications, including 70 authored or edited books, and was the founding editor of both the Journal of Research on Adolescence and Applied Developmental Science, the latter of which he continues to edit.

Peggy Orenstein, an internationally acclaimed writer and speaker on issues affecting the lives of girls and women, will be on a panel discussing "Media: Use and Effects." She will speak on "From Princesses to Pop-Tarts: The Impact of the Girlie-Girl Culture On- and Offline."

Orenstein is the author of two New York Times' best-sellers: this year's "Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture" and the memoir "Waiting for Daisy." A contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, Orenstein has also written for the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Vogue, Elle, Discover, More, Mother Jones, Salon, O: The Oprah Magazine and The New Yorker, and has contributed commentaries to NPR's "All Things Considered."  

The six conference panels, to be held at Alumni Hall, are:

• Promoting Physical Activity and Well-Being 
Oct. 24, 10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
This panel will discuss issues related to sedentary behavior in children and adolescents and focus on successful strategies to increase physical activity and exercise in preschool, and in school- and community-based programs.
(Moderator: Arthur L. Weltman, U.Va.) Speakers and their topics:
Robert García, "Physical Activity and Equal Justice in Schools and Parks"
Russell R. Pate, "Sedentary Behavior and Physical Activity: Independent and Interactive Influences on Health"
Karin Allor Pfeiffer, "Ingredients in the Recipe for Success of School-Based Physical Activity Interventions"
Stewart G. Trost, "Policy and Environmental Influences on Physical Activity in Preschool Children"

• Peer Influences for Effective Development
Oct. 24, 2-3:45 p.m.
This panel will consider the ways in which adolescent peer relationships are associated with positive youth outcomes, as well as ways in which opportunities might alter or enhance peer connections in ways that increase the likelihood of effective youth development.
(Moderator: Joseph P. Allen, U.Va.) Speakers and their topics:
Bradford Brown, "Promoting AAA Peer Influences: The Case of Teen Driving"
Scott Gest, "Recognizing and Enhancing Positive Peer Influence Processes"
Bonnie Leadbeater, "Changing Contexts and Moving Targets: Assessing Positive Peer Influences on Mental Health Across Development Transitions"
Mitchell J. Prinstein, "Mechanisms of Peer influence: Leveraging our Knowledge of Adolescent Socialization Processes to Promote Effective Development"

• Youth as Engaged Citizens
Oct. 24, 4-5:45 p.m.
This panel will focus on youth as active political constituents and explore what types of experiences engage youth in, and prepare youth for, civic participation in the 21st century. The panelists will discuss processes and outcomes of civic and volunteer activities during adolescence and how those activities, and others, provide skills for continued civic participation in the future. Topics will include the cognitive skills youth need for civic engagement, the outcomes associated with adolescent civic and volunteer engagement, and settings and experiences that prepare youth for civic participation.
(Moderator: Joanna Lee Williams, U.Va.) Speakers and their topics:
Connie Flanagan, "Community Service: Enlarging Youth's Sense of the Public and Perspectives on the Common Good"
Ben Kirshner, "What Schools Can Do to Promote Young People's Civic Learning and Development"
Reed W. Larson, "Beyond Volunteering: Youth’s Development of Strategic Expertise" Jonathan Zaff, "Connecting Disconnected Youth: Benefits for Our Communities and Our Democracy"

• Positive Youth Development Approach to Developmental Risk Avoidance
Oct. 25, 8:30-10:15 a.m.
Panel members will cover key concerns with motor vehicle operation, sexuality, substance use and delinquency.
(Moderator: Dewey G. Cornell, U.Va.) Speakers and their topics:
Richard Catalano, "Positive Youth Development Programs: History and Impact on Substance Use and Delinquency"
Bruce Simons-Morton, "Teenage Driving: A Developmental Challenge"
Deborah L. Tolman, "Heads Out of the Sand: Embracing Complexities of Adolescent Sexuality"
Sangeeta Tyagi, "Positive Youth Development Approaches to Re-engaging Disconnected Youth"

• Media: Use and Effects
Oct. 25, 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
This panel will consider how youth actively engage with new media and technologies as well as their potential effects. Topics will include the effects of feminine messages sent to girls through media, how diverse youth actively engage in new technologies in different ways, differences in participation rates for youth from different backgrounds, the implications of new technologies for measuring and assessing youth competencies and skills, and the health-promoting potential of social media for LGBT youth.
(Moderator: Nancy L. Deutsch, U.Va.) Speakers and their topics:
Brian Mustanski, "LGBT Youth, Technology and Health"
Peggy Orenstein, "From Princesses to Pop-Tarts: the Impact of the Girlie-Girl Culture On and Offline"
S. Craig Watkins, "Closing Digital Divides and Increasing Digital Literacy"
Constance M. Yowell, "Re-imagining Learning in the 21st Century"

• Wrap-Up
Oct. 25, 1:15-3 p.m.
Panel members will bring a range of disciplines and backgrounds to bear on the issues covered in the conference. The intent will be to expand upon conference discussions and suggest emphases and approaches that might best aid in enabling effective development of our youth.
(Moderator: Patrick H. Tolan, U.Va.) Speakers and their topics:
Suzanne Le Menestrel, "Federal Support for Positive Youth Development"
Karen Pittman, "Connecting the Dots"
Brian L. Wilcox, "Globalization and Positive Youth Development"

The complete conference schedule is here.

— By Rebecca Arrington

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Media Contact

Rebecca P. Arrington

Assistant Director of Media Relations Office of University Communications