Introducing the Guide on the Side Series

When the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta asked VOX ATL to share stories of high-quality youth development in our region, our curiosity piqued. Many adult experts have organized research into standards that indicate what produces a well-rounded young person and indicates high-quality youth development programming, but how often do the providers and youth themselves get to share their stories that illustrate quality? That’s exactly what VOX ATL set out to do. 

“I really value giving young people countless opportunities to define how we want the organization to be run on all levels,” says Dinah Rogers, 16, a peer editor and Board member at VOX ATL. “Giving young people a concrete voice that’s not just tokenized, but shows the results of your voice is really empowering in a youth space.” 

“I want to be able to talk to someone about anything without feeling bad about myself,” says Tanzania Jones, 16, who attends Charles R. Drew High School. 

“I felt the need to expand my horizons past my school and neighborhood community,” says Sophie James, 17, Decatur High School. 

High-quality youth development is multi-faceted. The Georgia Afterschool & Youth Development Initiative champions nine Elements for “quality” youth development, based on national research and best practices. The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, creator of the widely used evidence-based assessment system YPQA, articulates seven key elements. And The Wallace Foundation, which supports high quality arts programming for all,* organizes around 10 Success Principles for youth arts programs that apply to youth development as well.

Youth voice is a key component of each of those quality assessment systems and standards. We are grateful that The Community Foundation’s (TCF) team agrees that youth voice is a critical element of quality — and that when done effectively, youth voices help organizations address equity, and racial equity in particular. 

Alyssa Cobbs, program officer, says the Foundation’s commitment to equity of opportunity throughout its work stems from seeing the facts the regional data revealed and listening to the community: “We then partnered with VOX because we wanted to hear what youth were saying about equity issues.” (See launch video above.) 

We appreciate The Community Foundation’s trust in VOX to tell the stories of quality youth development, and we appreciate all of the partners who shared their stories. That storytelling only starts here. You’ll find many more voices on this site, with the invitation to join us in the recording studio — remotely and in person in the future. 

Grab the mic with us, won’t you? You can email us to schedule a recording time for our Guide on the Side podcast, to share your latest vents & victories or a story of your work. And you can always sign up as a community partner to share the voices of youth you work with. 

Primary reporting for the Guide on the Side content launch by Darriea Clark/ Special Projects Editor & VOX ATL alumna 

More Video stories are on our YouTube “Guide on the Side” Playlist, including:

“Belonging: Building Community Even in Virtual Programming”

In “Belonging,” the VOX ATL team reflects on creating community, even during Covid-19 while programming remotely.

“Teen Leadership in the Digital Space” 

In “Teen Leadership in the Digital Space,” teens and staff discuss the role adults play in supporting youth voice and leadership — key elements of quality youth development programs.

“The Good Coming out of Quarantine” 

Hear from Moving in the Spirit’s Dr. Charne Furcron and other community partners in “The Good Coming from Quarantine.”

You can also enjoy our professional development video series on our YouTube channel: “Vibing in the Virtual Space.” 


Thank you

Thank you to the organizations* and their staff that have participated in this storytelling adventure so far. We are proud to amplify your voices and look forward to continuing to share your stories! Please contact media@voxatl.org if you are interested in sharing your story in our ongoing Guide on the Side multimedia series. 

Athena’s Warehouse
Ballethnic
Create Your Dreams
Early Roots
Future Foundation
Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network
Girls on the Run
Greening Youth Foundation
Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project
Latin American Association
L.E.A.D.
Moving in the Spirit
SoulFood Cypher
Ushers New Look Foundation
21st Century Leaders
*Disclosure: Many of these organizations are current or past VOX ATL program partners as well.