Urban Minority Youth Leadership Initiative: Molding Today’s Minority Inner City Youth for Tomorrow’s Successes

By Jayna Butler

As a Career Strategist and Consultant, as well as a Masters-Level Therapist to adolescents and young professionals, I work with those in low socioeconomic areas to help captivate their professional purpose and recognize their potential to pursue any occupational goals. What can we do as career development professionals to assist inner city youth with leadership and professional development to prepare them to compete in tomorrow’s academic movement and workforce?


Let us explore this population, which is categorized as minority youth in that reside in low-income communities. The picture painted of inner city youth are those individuals who experience economic shortcomings, daily problems, and reside in communities that are low in resources, including educational and technological tools for academic advancement, and crime ridden areas (Li, Nussman, & Richards, 2007). Do career development professionals understand poverty and the mental processes of those in poverty?



Now the question is how do we, as their work development counselors, career coaches, or career development strategists, go about educating these youth?



An example of a leadership development program that assisted with the retention of high school students at-risk for dropping out of school, was the Maryland’s Tomorrow and FUTURES program. Merging the components of inner-city families, youth, employment training practitioners, and the business and corporate communities, the creators recruited young at-risk students before the 9th grade, training them into the 12th grade. The students were trained in basic skills, work experience, leadership development, and motivation, among other work-related components. The results of this program were simply amazing: after the first year of implementing the program, 82 % of the participants after high school were in some form of post-secondary education, whether it was a university or vocational training program (Lever, Sander, Lombardo, Randall, Axelrod, Rubenstein, & Weist, 2004). The program was able to teach adequate life skills, provide great mentors from neighboring communities that could relate to the students, and give them opportunities to be exposed to diversity and a sense of hopefulness.


Leadership development and inner city youth have been a target of counselors, nonprofit agencies, and other professionals that see a need in their communities. However, measuring the effectiveness of these programs is important. Having pre-tests and post-tests of surveys and assessments to manage and analyze the success of leadership development in a school district or program can provide the needed measurement component. Building a network of positive change in our nation’s inner city’s youth population will prepare them for tomorrow’s constant changing workforce. We hope to see new professionals, leaders, and even entrepreneurs who have created their own futures by listening and being inspired by career leaders, like us.



Li, S. T., Nussman, K. M., & Richards, M. H. (2007). Risk and protective factors for African-American youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39, 21-25. DOI: 10.1007/s10464-007-9088


Lever, N., Sander, M. A., Lombardo, S., Randall, C., Axelrod, J., Rubenstein, M., & Weist, M. D. (2004). A drop-out prevention program for high-risk inner-city youth. Behavior Modification, 28(4), 513-527. doi:10.1177/0145445503259520


Payne, Ruby. A framework for understanding poverty (4th ed.). Highlands, TX: 2005.



Jayna ButlerJayna Butler, MS is a freelance Career and Training Consultant. She has over 10 years of experience working with youth and young adults in low-income areas. She possesses a BA in Psychology and a Masters degree in Counseling. Currently, she is working on a doctorate degree in Organizational Psychology at Walden University. Her research interests include leadership development/career preparation for at-risk youth and young adults and career planning and development for women in low-income areas. Jayna is a proud working mom of a little girl and definitely loves to inspire others for success. For more information, you may email her at Jayna.butler@waldenu.edu.


Gail Sutton on Monday 08/01/2011 at 10:26PM wrote:

Excellent article! You did an outstanding job of laying out the problem followed by workable solutions!

Larry Robbin on Saturday 09/03/2011 at 02:09PM wrote:

The best resource for information on employment and at-risk youth is the National Youth Employment Coalition. www.nyec.org. Also in November the National Youth Development Symposium will be held in Chicago. It's the largest youth employment conference in the country. For information go to www.nawdp.org. For my list of youth employment resources email larryrobbin@aol.com and put youth resource list in the subject line.

Clarence Dickson on Monday 09/05/2011 at 08:51AM wrote:

Great article with a strong initiative to develop a outreach program for children in stigmatize neighborhoods/communities. Reading your mission statement has a lot of life into it with a feasible opportunity to reshape what currently goes on with these kids. Someone has to set the trend and if there is anything I can do to assist you with these endeavors do not hesitate to ask me.

Karolyn Motte on Monday 09/12/2011 at 03:28PM wrote:

Hello, Jayna
I enjoyed your article. It has inspired me to pick back up a long term goal of starting a non profit.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the opinions of this organization.