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YDL Student Shares Her Experience

Laurel AndersonSecond-year Youth Development Leadership student, Laurel Anderson, returned to the Clemson University campus for the 2007 College Research Forum as part of the curriculum requirements of the Youth Development Leadership Online Master of Science program. Her research project topic is, Assessing the Out-of-School Time Needs and Interests of Teens in Ventura California.

During the Forum's Poster Session, Laurel and other Youth Development Leadership Cohort students shared their thoughts about their Masters Degree.

Q: In the beginning, what interested you in Clemson's Master of Science in Youth Development Leadership program?

A: I always knew I wanted to work with youth and landed a position at Boys and Girls Club in Monterey County [CA] in the homework room. I began to realize that despite all the positives resulting from the dedicated efforts of everyone working with the youth, there was still a need for a deeper understanding of youth development. While scanning the Boys and Girls Club Professional Development materials I found an ad for the Youth Development online program at Clemson University. Until then, I hadn't realized Youth Development was a field of study on the graduate level. I saw the program as a way for me to obtain the theory and formalized training in addition to my experience; and, I also wanted to be able to speak with an amount of authority when addressing issues concerning youth. So, I contacted the program director.

Q: Did you know anything about Clemson University prior to seeing the ad?

A: No. I knew "zero." I had heard the name before but didn't know where it was or even if it was a good university...I had absolutely no idea.

Q: What has this program offered that you could not have gotten elsewhere?

A: Online programs are usually very isolating and impersonal. You read the text, write the paper, take the test; but this program has an initial 3-day face-to-face orientation, integrating essential team-building exercises and social activities that bond the Cohort. So, when we return to our various locations around the country and are left to the online agenda, we are able to not only hear the voices and read the online discussions, but we also have faces and personalities to attach to each Cohort member. Another advantage of our online course is that we can participate in a first-rate program while maintaining our livelihoods and lifestyles.

Diversity plays an important role in this program. We have the advantage of incorporating formalized learning with the combined years of expertise and acquired knowledge of fellow Cohort members who hold positions in youth-serving agencies and organizations across the country. In our Cohort, we represent a number of professions including teaching, camp counseling, faith-based organizations, clinical day programs, department of social services, and university extension to name a few.

When you factor in a top-ranking University like Clemson and esteemed instructors who are recognized experts in their respective areas of study, you've got to know that you're getting the best education experience, hands down.

Q: What will the degree do for you?

A: Currently, I'm working to start a program to develop leadership skills among the youth in my community. With my interests in out-of-school time and youth involvement in community development, my goal is to be a "loud advocate" for teens and all youth. I want to shift the culture of my community and build a broader focus on youth development so that they [youth] can become productive, contributing community members. The MS Degree gives outside validity and credibility to my advocacy efforts. I am confident in knowing that I have formal, specialized education and training based on sound theory, proven research models, and hands-on experience as my foundation for implementing youth development strategies.