Shorter school days, higher test scores, and more youth thriving – what can Vermont learn from Finland about helping young people succeed? From February 18 to February 22, 2019, noted Finish youth expert Dr. Lasse Siurala visited youth programs and spoke at several venues about the strategies Finland is using to help its youth gain skills for a thriving adulthood. We were so lucky to have him here and we really enjoyed the conversations he inspired throughout his travels in Vermont.
Helping Youth Succeed: Strategies from Finland with Dr. Lasse Siurala
UVM Alumni House on February 19, 2019
Finland is a country that is passionately committed to helping its youth succeed – not just in school and at work but at life. We were thrilled to have Dr. Siurala visit us, to speak with us about what Vermont can do for its young people, and share some of the positive approaches that have been so successful in Finland. Dr. Siurala is considered the Finnish father of youth work and was the Director of Youth Services in Helsinki for many years. We have much to learn from Lasse and Finland on how we can support young people in Vermont. The Finnish model is unique in that they have a short school day (until noon) and then children and youth go to afterschool or out-of-school time programs at youth/community centers. All children and youth are encouraged to find a “hobby” or interest, with trained “youth workers” supporting young people in growing up, getting ready for independent life, and feeling included in society.
What are we doing in Vermont?
The visit was hosted by Vermont Afterschool, Inc. and the VT9to26 Coalition, representing dozens of organizations with a focus on supporting Vermont’s young people. Holly Morehouse, executive director of Vermont Afterschool and manager of the VT9to26 Coalition, traveled to Finland in 2017 and 2018 in order to learn from a country with exceptional out-of-school time programming. She spent several weeks in Finland last spring touring afterschool programs, youth centers, and researching that country’s comprehensive youth strategy.
As a result of Holly’s time in Finland, she became fired up about the concept of youth voice and increasing our attention on older youth as a unique and special time of life. Born from her travels came the idea of a Youth Rights Summit, which we hosted in October 2017. At that event, Vermont youth ages 9-22 came together to co-create a Youth Declaration of Rights. Holly was inspired to start the VT9to26 Coalition, as well as a statewide youth council, a youth participatory budgeting process that is the current Youth4Youth Grant Program, and professional development opportunities for those working with older youth during the out-of-school time hours.
In 2018, Vermont Afterschool was selected by the Vermont Community Foundation as a Cornerstone Partner. This funding has enabled Vermont Afterschool to focus on closing the opportunity gap by strengthening, and expanding access to, out-of-school time programs and opportunities for older youth. We are grateful to the Vermont Community Foundation for supporting our work and the VT9to26 Coalition, which is a project housed under Vermont Afterschool.
Dr. Siurala presented a public lecture at the UVM Alumni House on February 19, 2019 in an event held jointly with the UVM School of Education and Social Services. A video recording of Dr. Siurala’s talk can be viewed above or here. You can watch a recap of Dr. Siurala’s week in Vermont, which was full of many activities and site visits, on this interview that aired on Channel 17.
Dr. Siurala has a long background in managing youth services on local and international levels. He is an experienced youth researcher and an expert in youth policy. He has been the Director of Youth Services at the City of Helsinki (with 300 youth workers and 60 youth centres) and the Director of Youth and Sports at the Council of Europe (with 47 member states in Europe). He is also a well known youth researcher and expert worldwide, having spoken throughout Europe and in China, Canada, and the United States. He has been an Associate Professor at Aalto University, Helsinki (today an Adjunct Professor), he has been the Howland Endowed Chair, University of Minnesota (Extension Center for Youth Development), and currently works as a lecturer of youth work at Tallinn University (Estonia) and as a Special Advisor to the Humak University of Applied Sciences (Youth Worker education in Finland).
Dr. Siurala’s areas of expertise include: managing integrated youth policies/projects; youth participation; measuring the impact of youth work/youth development (including the potential of a narrative approach); the role of youth work in Europe as as an educational field; youth work in Finland; digital youth work, and other new forms of youth work; and the role of history in understanding youth work/youth development. Some of his international publications include:
Siurala, L, Dierker, B & Mäkelä, L (2011) Chasing policy objectives, structures and resources – US and European practices in the field of youth and culture
Siurala, Lasse & Heini Turkia (2012) Celebrating pluralism: Beyond established forms of youth participation, in Loncle, Patricia et al (eds) Youth participation in Europe, Beyond discourses, practices and realities,
Siurala, L & Nöjd, T (2015) Youth Work Quality Assessment, The self and peer assessment model
Siurala, L (2015) Interprofessional collaboration: Easy to agree with, difficult to implement, Youth Partnership, Coyote nr 23, Strasbourg
Siurala, L & Coussée, F & Suurpää, L & Williamson, H (eds) (2016) The History of Youth Work in Europe, Relevance for today’s youth work policy, vol 5, Council of Europe, Strasbourg
Ord, J with M. Carletti, S Cooper, C. Dansac, D Morciano, L. Siurala and M. Taru (eds) “The Impact of Youth Work in Europe: A Study of Five European Countries (pp. 49-62), Helsinki 2018
Siurala, L. (2018) Managing Digital Youth Work, Paper presented at the InterCity Youth Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece 8-10th October 2018 (www.intercityyouth.eu)
Kalala Mabuluki, E. & Siurala, L. Lost in translation – Why aren’t integrated youth policies translated into practice? Les Cahiers de l’action – INJEP, Paris (forthcoming April 2019)