Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Toni Pauls

Second Advisor

Dr. Marcia Curry

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Lopez

Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery, Scholarship of Interdisciplinary Integration, Scholarship of Community Application


The study of youth development is a massive field that encompasses admirable literature and notable research. However, investigating past youth experiences through a work setting that promoted advancement in education, experience, and character through elevated youth roles and responsibilities provided a unique lens that could enlarge the field of youth development. This study, which focused on 12 former staff experiences in Thornton Township youth programs, addressed a literature gap. Although the literature on youth development, youth employment, mentoring, community, and positive youth development (PYD) was reviewed, the combined concepts of work and matriculation through adulthood could not be identified. A thorough analysis of qualitative data revealed three themes related to learning, training, and development; leadership; and culture. The conclusions drawn from participants’ experiences related back to the literature. The strongest conclusion involved the impact of participants’ experiences with meeting higher standards as adults in the programs. The novelty of this specific research led to several recommendations for further study.

Key Findings

Through phenomenological research, the researcher concluded that adulthood can be positively impacted by exposing youth to meaningful work. Expectations and quality of youths' work seemed to influence them in adulthood. The leadership style of supervisors also seemed to encourage or discourage growth in youth. Most of the participants reported positive lasting relationships in adulthood that originated in their job positions as youth.


Further research is needed on community sustainability through developing youth while using work as a tool.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Professional Biography

India Blakely has worked in social services as a community program developer and mental health therapist since 1999 after earning her first degree (bachelor's in Psychology). Upon earning her master's degree in counseling in 2003, she was able to combine her hands-on youth work with developing programs and providing mental health services. As a program developer, she has created community programs for thousands of youths, many of which were hired, trained and developed into adults maintaining healthy personal and professional lives. As a result of earning her doctorate in education through this project, she has founded a not-for-profit organization intended to continue the work.