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PSU hosts international youth mentorship event
PSU hosts international youth mentorship event

PSU hosts international youth mentorship event
School of Social Work invites mentors to discover latest research

by Sierra Pannabecker, PSU Vanguard
Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The Portland State School of Social Work kicked off the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring (SIYM) yesterday, a weeklong summit for professionals working with youths in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.

The event is geared toward supplying youth mentors with new research-based findings about troubled youth.

Dr. Tom Keller, a professor in the School of Social Work, founded the SIYM five years ago. Last year he established the Center for Interdisciplinary Mentoring Research, which now organizes the SIYM.

The center creates conversations among the many parties holding stakes in youth development, from business owners to sociologists to psychologists.

Admission to the institute is competitive as candidates seeking professional development vie for spots.

"Participants are people working at non-profits and staff who run mentoring programs," Keller said. "We're interested in people who have leadership roles in their programs, so that they can make changes happen."

Twenty-five youth workers will be attending the institute as guests, and on Friday 200 more people will be invited to participate in a one-day symposium.

Michael O'Teter, the vice president of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Texas, oversees programs from Houston to Dallas to Wichita Falls near the Oklahoma border and serves 10,000 children every year. This will be his second year attending the event.

"I found it to be the absolute best professional development that I have had since college," O'Teter said.

"I look forward to learning what researchers have discovered and finding ways to apply that knowledge back home."

Keller and PSU colleague Kevin Jones wrote an article that details the importance of the SIYM.

"SIYM is an approach for facilitating direct communication and collaboration to bridge the traditional divide between research and practice, said the article. "The program leverages university resources to address an influential audience whose needs are not well met by current training programs."

The article has recently been accepted for publication in the International Journal for Community Research and Engagement and is currently in press.

SIYM attendee Dr. Renee Spencer, chair of the Human Behavior department at Boston University, reiterated the need for this type of event: "These kinds of researcher-practitioner meeting seem to be all too rare in youth-serving fields, despite the important role they can play in moving both research and practice forward in significant ways."

She also said that youth mentors are constantly trying to do the best job possible serving the youth in their programs.

Keller attributes the institute's success to the opportunity it affords youth workers to "get away and discover the latestresearch."

The attendants will have time each day during the week to meet with their colleagues and benefit from community partnerships. 

This year the event will be documented by a professional videographer.

The SIYM will continue through this Friday, July 22, in the Academic and Student Recreation Center building. ■

To learn more:

Dr. Thomas Keller, SSW Profile
Mentor Center, PSU Featured Profile
Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring (SIYM)
Center for Interdisciplinary Mentoring Research (CIMR)