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Are you Culturally Competent?

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under Opinions

Jackie Jainga Hyllseth

Earlier this month, Youth Today published an article looking at the importance of cultural competency for professionals working with young people in afterschool and youth development settings.

School’s Out Washington and Washington State have been leaders when it comes to developing standards and competencies to help professionals understand what cultural competency looks like, both as a youth worker and in the program setting.

Below is an excerpt from the article interviewing our own Jackie Jainga-Hyllseth, Chief Program Quality Officer at School’s Out Washington who led the process engaging key partners, providers, and other stakeholders in Washington both in developing our state’s Core Competencies and Quality Standards.

As a result of this work, School’s Out Washington has developed a training module on the Cultural Competency and Responsiveness Quality Standard to help professionals better understand what this looks like and how to integrate best practices into their program and interactions with youth.  This month, School’s Out will be leading our first training of trainers on this topic to expand the pool of diverse trainers qualified to deliver this content.

Take a moment to read Jackie’s words on this subject, and view the full article on Youth Today’s website.

The importance of cultural competency

(excerpt taken from Youth Today Are you Culturally Competent? Responding to Kids Diverse Backgrounds and Experiencesby Stell Simonton; published on July 14, 2016)

Cultural competency is among the core competencies for youth development professionals listed by the National Afterschool Association.

It requires being aware of one’s own cultural beliefs and practices, according to the NAA, and it means valuing and respecting the culture of others. It also means creating an inclusive, welcoming and respectful environment for all children, connecting teaching and learning opportunities to the the kids’ experience and cultures.

Several states, including Washington and Arizona, have extended beyond the NAA’s listing to make cultural responsiveness one of their quality standards.

“To make progress with real youth outcomes” you’ve got to get staff to be responsive to the cultures of the children in the program, said Jackie Jainga-Hyllseth, chief program quality officer at School’s Out Washington, the state’s after-school network.

If you don’t train staff to be culturally responsive, how can you create a safe environment for kids to realize their potential, she asks.

When teachers and after-school staff are mostly white and female, they may have little exposure to the different stresses on people of other cultures and their different cultural practices, Jainga-Hyllseth said.

The staff could be running a program for English language learners or children of color, she said.

If they have no experience or knowledge or awareness of the children’s different culture, race or physical disability, it’s hard for them to understand how to provide a safe environment, she said.

Data shows the major achievement gap between white youth and young people of color.

“We lead with race because that’s the most urgent area that needs attention and because we have data that show the enormity of the gap between African-American children and white children in school, in health and in their environment,” she said.

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