Youth development center hosts training event _lowres

Photo provided by DARA SHACKELFORD -- Participating in the Big Buddy training program held on March 5 at the Big Buddy Youth Development Center are, from left, Nancy Zito, executive director and principal of Gardere Community Christian School; Gaylynne Mack, executive director of the Big Buddy Program; Veronica Del Bianco, with the 4-H Youth Development Program and Michael Tipton, president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.

The Big Buddy Program Youth Development Resource Center hosted its first Ages and Stages of Youth Development training March 5 at the East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Instructional Resource Center, 1022 South Foster Drive.

Staff and volunteers from the Big Buddy Program, Volunteers in Public Schools and the Gardere Community Christian School participated in the training, conducted by Veronica Del Bianco, a faculty member of the 4-H Youth Development Program.

“Our Baton Rouge children and youth need more professionals trained in positive youth development,” said Gaylynne Mack, executive director of the Big Buddy Program, whose work led to the Youth Development Resource Center. “This is the key to making a difference in their lives. For over 30 years, we have invested in extended learning, mentoring and workforce development programs for children and youth, but we have never had community resources for professional development.”

The Youth Development Resource Center is a new initiative of the Big Buddy Program to fill a critical gap in high-quality professional development, a news release said. More than 50 professionals, including extended learning staff, volunteer mentors and teachers who collectively work with more than 1,000 Baton Rouge children and youth, will receive this training, considered to be key for understanding positive youth development.

The Youth Development Resource Center is funded through a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation 20th Anniversary Angels of Change grant, which targeted innovative ideas to improve the quality of life of children in Louisiana.

“The Youth Development Resource Center was selected for our 20th Anniversary Angels of Change grant program for two reasons: because of its proposal by Angel Honoree Gaylynne Mack among various others and because of its proposal to create an ongoing base of knowledge and resources for those working with children in the Greater Baton Rouge community,” said Michael Tipton, foundation president. “We see other cities create youth development resource centers as part of their plan to support volunteers and community organizations to support kids. We believe this is a smart step for Baton Rouge and believe focusing on our children is critical to improve children’s health and well-being as well as to increase graduation rates and building stronger economic opportunities for our community.”