03/02/2012 03:27 pm ET Updated May 02, 2012

Non-Profit's Nerdy Sister: Youth Development

Who, or more importantly WHAT got you to where you are now? I love asking that question to people who are relatively successful.

The less aware of us would take full credit for our success. Those that know realize that it was often something or someone in their community that made a difference in their life. Dig a little deeper and those with functioning careers, relationships and who play nice in society often times where impacted by an enrichment or youth development program.

Do you have a nerdy sister that helped you with your homework and did you take all the credit?

Youth Development is the nerdy sister in our life and she comes in many shapes and sizes:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • After-school programs
  • Youth sport leagues
  • Boy & Girl Scouts
  • YMCA
  • 4H
  • Summer camps
  • Karate

Look familiar?

If we all know that youth development is important, then why do we ignore it? Not support it? Why is it the first to get cut during a budget crisis? Compared to non-profit's prettier sisters like education, poverty, hunger or Africa, which OBVIOUSLY cannot compare, youth development gets the proverbial shaft.

Perhaps it's because we're not clear what the goal of youth development. Maybe it's hard to define, unlike providing food for those who need or a cure for a disease.

I guess it's just hard for us to understand the concept of simply turning kids into great people who live productive lives in the future.

Yes, there are some bad ones for sure. However, the great ones help provide a safe environment, much needed stability, a clear life path, and additional skills that schools and home fail to provide.

Youth development programs teach important skills such as teamwork, communication skills, goal setting, and how to have fun. It's a much-needed outlet for many youth and places them on a road to success.

I don't know about you, but I loved my nerdy sister and she helped me tremendously! I'd do anything to make sure she helps out other kids. Here's what you can do to help youth development grow.

  1. Be proud and talk about the programs you participated in as a youngster!
  2. Donate and support innovative programs that are independently funded.
  3. Give your talent by volunteering.
  4. Find your old program and thank them!