From Positive Youth Development to Social Justice Youth Development Webinar Recording


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Positive youth development (PYD) is the preeminent theory and practice model for working with youth. In positive youth development, adults and communities seek to strengthen known protective factors among young people so that young people can thrive and become productive adults.


Social Justice Youth Development (SJYD) goes a step further to address the social and economic forces (racism, classism, sexism, adultism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism) that oppress young people and complicate “normative” developmental patterns. Social justice youth development incorporates many aspects of positive youth development (knowledge and skill building), and also acknowledges and leverages youth’s experiences with discrimination, inequality, and negative stereotypes. A goal of SJYD is to understand power, privilege, and oppression in order to disrupt existing power structures and advocate for transformative change.


As a result of this webinar, participants will be able to describe two theories (PYD and SJYD) and consider their similarities, and differences.


Given the diversification of youth and communities, a SJYD framework is an important consideration to achieving health equity and justice for and with young people.

Learning Objectives
  • Describe positive youth development and social justice youth development theory

  • Explain similarities and differences between PYD and SJYD




Heather Kennedy, MPH

Heather is a youth engagement activist and scholar. As an activist, she has created over a dozen youth leadership groups and engaged teens in local, state, and federal policy advocacy. As a scholar she is involved in a variety of community engaged research and teaching activities. Heather is a Doctoral candidate at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. She has several peer-reviewed publications advancing the knowledge base for high-quality youth-adult partnerships. At 17, Heather learned the power of her own voice, and ever since she has been a stalwart advocate for supporting adults to engage youth authentically.