“The Toolbox” Kicks Off Training Community with Cultural Awareness Session

Part of the Center for Community Engagement and Impact’s Mary and Frances Youth Center, The Toolbox offers a comprehensive approach to professional development for youth-serving organizations. [View Image]

By Jenny Pedraza

On July 28, more than 20 professionals representing youth-serving organizations attended a virtual training on cultural awareness, hosted by the Virginia Commonwealth University Mary and Frances Youth Center (MFYC). The training was the first offering of The Toolbox, a youth development training community launched by MFYC this June. MFYC and the Toolbox are housed in the VCU Center for Community Engagement and Impact (CEI).

“The Toolbox exists because out-of-school-time (OST) programs and staff voiced the need for expanded professional development opportunities, including new and unique trainings that could push sites to deepen the quality of their OST programs,” said Charles Johnson, training and compliance manager in the MFYC. “With this first training, we wanted to begin a conversation around how racial injustice impacts both staff and youth, starting with the importance of language.”   

The cultural awareness training provided an overview of the key concepts related to diversity, equity and inclusion, including implicit bias and culturally responsive practice. Two staff members in the School of Education’s Office of Strategic Engagement with experience addressing equity in K-12 education provided insight into ways cultural awareness can impact day-to-day programming at OST organizations. 

Joshua Cole, Ph.D., executive director; and Cassandra Barksdale Stanley, Ed.D., assistant director, guided participants to meet the needs of historically marginalized students of color to ultimately create more culturally-responsive spaces for youth. 

Participant feedback about the training was overwhelmingly positive. One hundred percent of survey respondents said the content was high quality and worth their time and that they would recommend a Toolbox training to a colleague. 

Christine Jones-Monaccio, professional development and quality coordinator for Virginia Partnership for Out-of-School Time, the state-wide out-of-school time network for Virginia, attended the training. 

“When those in the field have access to consistent, quality, professional development, it equates to youth and families being served by professionals who are thoughtful, engaging and knowledgeable,” said Jones-Monaccio. “The Toolbox is able to tap into the pulse of the community of Richmond’s youth-serving organizations and respond according to community need.”

The MFYC is a regional leader in university-community collaboration for positive youth development. The center has been providing training opportunities to area youth development professionals for the past 10 years, and is uniquely positioned to leverage the resources of VCU and the community to support quality improvement in the OST system.

The Toolbox brings together content experts in positive youth development to teach youth development professionals how to work with children and youth, build program management skills, and develop social and emotional learning skills.

The next Toolbox event is the quarterly Youth Development Network meeting, which will be held virtually Wednesday, Sept. 2. Attendees will hear an overview of the Richmond OST Alliance, including the vision, work accomplished to date, future goals and ways for OST organizations serving Richmond Public Schools students to get involved. The meeting will also explore ways for OST organizations to be involved in a citywide OST data collection effort.

For more information or to register for trainings, visit MFYC Toolbox

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