Changing the Odds: Virginia Youth Development Conference

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond believes that all youth are deserving of equitable, quality services and programs that help launch them into adulthood happy, whole and ready for success in life.

It’s not something achieved alone - youth development is a collaborative effort. There are many organizations across Virginia that work alongside Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond and other youth, families and communities to help meet the needs of young people. When these organizations come together for hands-on learning, knowledge sharing and discussion, there is a greater collective impact.

To help foster collaboration and conversation, Boys & Girls of Metro Richmond, with support from the nationally-known Forum for Youth Investment, recently hosted the Changing the Odds: Virginia Youth Development Conference. Leaders from every Boys & Girls Club in Virginia as well as 51 additional organizations from around the state attended the conference.

Representatives from each Boys & Girls Club in Virginia gathered together in Richmond.

Representatives from each Boys & Girls Club in Virginia gathered together in Richmond.

“We are broadening our view about the needed outcomes for young people” - Nancy Deutsch, Youth-Nex

Through keynotes, workshops and peer roundtable discussions, the participants explored different approaches to what it takes to “change the odds” for youth and what they, as organizations, can do to continue to grow and strengthen their commitment to Virginia’s young people.

It was also an opportunity to dig deeper into the root causes of barriers for young people, such as mental health and trauma, and genuinely discuss ways to assist them and prepare them to be life-ready.

"We can't help our young people and their families if we're not seeing them or hearing them,” Todd McFarlane, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, remarked to the crowd.


 The Forum's Karen Pittman, Merita Irby, Larry Pasti and Priscilla Little brought the national perspective about how success can be developed through quality programming, engagement, partnerships and evaluation youth readiness. Nancy Deutsch, director of Youth-Nex at the Center to Promote Effective Youth Development at University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, and Candy Markman, retired planning director for Afterschool Initiatives for the Nashville Mayor's Office of Children and Youth, brought state and local perspectives to the conversation.  

“The best learning comes from each other, side-by-side.”

The peer roundtable discussions brought together organizations from around the region and allowed for authentic conversations about youth. Topics included: continuous improvement (Candace Benn, NextUp RVA); inclusion (Ted Lewis, Side By Side); mentoring (Elizabeth Bass, Virginia Mentoring Partnership); STEM (Chuck English, Science Museum of Virginia); trauma informed care (Melissa McGinn, Greater Richmond SCAN);  workforce development (Monica Callahan, ChamberRVA);  and youth program quality intervention (Frank Cardella, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg).


The Changing the Odds: Virginia Youth Development Conference was able to spark many new ideas and collaborations both locally and across the state. For Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula, the staff is looking forward to using the knowledge they gained about implementing the QuEST model for evaluating program quality and engagement as well beginning the process of action and reflection for both youth and staff.

“I enjoyed being able to connect with not just Boys & Girls Club professionals but other youth development professionals as well,” said Jim Highsmith from Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula. “I really hope that this becomes an annual event.  Many organizations can benefit from an event based on supporting our youth.” 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond is looking forward to continuing these critical conversations.