Category Archives: Youth Development

Custom + Quality = GUIDE Training Events

With more than 25 years of experience coordinating, planning and implementing training across the state, GUIDE is your source for a custom, quality event! GUIDE specializes in substance abuse prevention, youth development and leadership for both youth and adults.

IMG_3752No matter your group – youth or adults, large or small, non-profit or corporate – we are willing to work with you to plan and implement a custom event in your community… or anywhere you desire! Put our experience to work for your school, community or company by contacting us to be a part of planning a new, or improving on a pre-existing, program or conference.  Whether it is planning and taking care of all the small details, or simply providing a professional workshop session, GUIDE staff will work to fit your goals and needs, whatever they may be.  We will also make it a priority to work with the budget available to you.

August is always a busy month of custom training events for GUIDE with the start of programming and the new school year. We’ve already had several trainings throughout the state this month and still have more to come before September.

IMG_2605On August 11, GUIDE staff conducted a teen summit with 60 students at the Douglas County Performance Learning Center. At the beginning of the summit, participants were greeted with door prizes and energizers to get them ready for the day. Afterward, they took part in engaging, hands-on workshops related to leadership and goal setting. Through partner and group discussion, creative projects, and the use of GUIDE’s Caboodle Cards, these workshops provided resources and tools necessary to be successful during the school year and beyond. The day ended with a large group session of icebreakers and energizers. During this time, participants had the opportunity to learn about each other and how to work better as a group.

IMG_2774Later that week, GUIDE staff facilitated three workshops with 65 students at the Turner County Freshmen Orientation. Each year, Turner County Freshmen have the opportunity to see and learn about their school prior to the start of the year, and we were grateful to be a part of this fantastic event! The workshops conducted included themes of respect, staying engaged while in school, and time-management. Although the workshops were only 30 minutes in length, the GUIDE facilitators did an exceptional job leading meaningful conversation, engaging participants in activities, and sharing expertise about what to expect in high school.

This month, GUIDE also partnered with the Gwinnett County Coalition’s program, the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute (GNLI) and Gwinnett SToPP. Each year, these organizations request GUIDE to facilitate teambuilding to start things off for their newest members during their annual kick-off retreat. New members are asked to work together all day Saturday and Sunday of the retreat to learn about their programs, receive training related to creating change in the community, and learn how to work better as a team. GUIDE staff are instrumental in leading new members through these developments and really help to get things moving right at the beginning of the retreat.

GUIDE staff will also conduct two workshops for the Atlanta Salvation Army’s Boys and Girls Club. The workshops will tackle topics related to Project-Based Learning and STEM in afterschool programming. During the Project-Based Learning workshop, participants will gain an understanding of the key characteristics of project-based learning and how it differs from other models and approaches; learn the principles for designing, assessing and managing project-based learning projects; and gain tools and resources for implementing project-based learning in youth development programs. STEM participants will come to understand the importance of implementing STEM in afterschool, participate in sample activities and facilitation, and review how scientific inquiry relates to STEM.

If you’re interested in custom events like the above, or something totally different, please don’t hesitate to contact our Director of Training and Capacity Building, Mary Kate Chapman ( We strive to provide a quality training every time and will work with you to customize the best event for your budget or link you with someone who can.


7 Ways to Effectively Engage Youth Voice in Programming

Youth Voice is an essential piece of any organization that works with youth, either directly or indirectly.

In order to effectively engage Youth Voice in programming, take the following into consideration:

  1. Honor, ask for and engage youth wisdom.
  2. Provide ample opportunities for young people and adults to share control and decision making on multiple levels.
  3. Understand that Youth Voice is a way of operating, an organizational culture and philosophy that goes beyond one “leadership program offering.”
  4. Go beyond “just listening” and build real action around Youth Voice.
  5. Identify opportunities for voice and choice within each daily activity, across sessions, throughout programs and organization-wide.
  6. Create space, commit resources, provide support and promote opportunities for Youth Voice.
  7. Understand the positive outcomes of partnership for young people, adults, organizations and communities.

Squaready20140811141906The GUIDE, Inc. Youth Advisory Board (YAB) utilizes Youth Voice in multiple ways. Before the official start of the school year in August, a group of YAB members attended Georgia Teen Institute (GTI), planned a community project related to prevention and utilized the Strategic Prevention Framework. During this time, YAB members shared their knowledge of issues in the community, and their project was based on this wisdom and expertise. While they were given community statistics and an action plan as resources, the development of the project was directly related to the needs they wanted to see addressed in the community.

In the upcoming school year, YAB will work toward capacity building, utilizing resources available and implementing this plan in Gwinnett County. They will also have the opportunity to work with GUIDE staff to provide feedback regarding the organization’s strategic planning goals as well as other organizational projects. This feedback ensures that youth in our community are heard and have the chance to share their opinion with stakeholders and decision makers.

IMG_4858Youth Voice is also a key piece of YAB and GUIDE’s Board of Directors meetings. Executive members work with GUIDE staff to develop agendas and activities and even lead their YAB meetings, too. In the upcoming year, YAB will also attend GUIDE Board of Directors meetings where they will create and report out information related to the work they’re accomplishing in and around the community. By including youth in these key pieces, they have a direct say in what they want and need to accomplish, as well as the information they wish to share with the organization’s Board of Directors.

During YAB meetings, one way we encourage youth to think a little deeper and share those thoughts with us is by utilizing a tool called WIBYT: Write It Before You Talk. When brainstorming or thinking deeply about a topic or pondering a specific question, allow participants a set time limit to write down anything related to the topic or question you presented.  The only rules are that the person must write for the entire time, and they cannot verbalize their thoughts with those around them until instructed to do so. After the time limit is up, have participants share the ideas they jotted down. This activity allows time for everyone to identify their own thoughts or answers before sharing out with the large group. This will effectively engage more youth, and the group participation will increase, too. For more tools and tricks on how to engage youth, check out speaker, educator and author Michael Brandwein.

Squaready20140811142355It’s important to incorporate Youth Voice in several areas throughout the organization and to make sure it isn’t one small happening, but is interwoven throughout the organizational structure. Realize that this is a partnership and show them respect. Listen to their ideas. Be intentional about involving them in multiple aspects of your organization. Above all, remember that Youth Voice takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight.

We are excited to work with each YAB member this year, to hear their voice, and to make a positive difference in our community as a result!

For more information and resources related to Youth Voice, check out University of Minnesota’s Quality Matters Toolkit: Voice and Engagement.

GUIDE Plans First Ever Teens R 4 Me Conference

RUS_5487On March 7 and 8, GUIDE partnered with the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to conduct the first ever Teens R 4 Me Conference. The conference took place at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel and welcomed more than 450 participants from across the state. The entirety of the conference focused on supporting foster youth as they transition out of care and making sure they’re successful during that process. The transition can sometimes be difficult; therefore, it was imperative to provide participants with ample resources, skills and tools needed to be successful. The conference provided said resources based on five pillars: Connected, Educated, Employable, Healthy and Safe.

On Day One, the conference sought to follow these objectives:

  • Assist supervisors in identifying and utilizing best practices that support and promote quality Every Child Every Month (ECEM) visits to you in foster care, ages 14-21
  • Provide tools and resources that strengthen the ability of DFCS staff to develop and execute transition plans that prepare youth for independence and self-sufficiency
  • Provide guidance to DFCS leadership on policies and procedures that affect youth as they transition into adulthood and out of care

RUS_5452Social services case managers, supervisors, and DHS leadership came from all parts of Georgia to participate during this portion of the conference. The day started with inspiring words from Dr. Sharon Hill, DFCS Director, Commissioner Keith Horton and the always motivational J.R. Henderson. Afterwards, participants had the opportunity to hear from experts in the field from state agencies such as the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as organizations including Georgia Care Connection and the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership. In addition, young adults that have transitioned out of care acted as panelists, which provided youth voice to each of the topics. This allowed participants to gain a better understanding of the youth they serve. The various panels of experts provided resources and skills that participants could immediately take RUS_5493back and share with youth. Juvenile Court Judge Vincent Crawford closed out the day providing information on new policies and procedures related to the field. DFCS staff left the conference motivated and inspired to share these resources and skills with their fellow coworkers and youth in their programs.

RUS_5399On the evening of Day One, the conference welcomed youth and young adults, ages 14-21, who are currently in or recently transitioned out of care. Conference Staff greeted participants with smiling faces, lots of fun activities and amazing food! On Day Two, participants had the opportunity to be energized by the fantastic performer J. Fly and motivated by J.R. Henderson. Similar to the first day, participants then divided into various breakout sessions and learned about resources and skills needed to be successful during transition. This included how to obtain college scholarships; skills needed to get and keep a job they love; and how to stay healthy, in both body and mind. The conference came to an end with an interactive resource café. During this time, participants were able to network with several exhibitors such as AmeriCorps, Georgia College 411, Covenant House and more! They also engaged in activities related to health and well-being, safety and connectedness. As the conference came to a close, several participants mentioned that they didn’t want to leave and kept asking when the next one would take place.

RUS_5506Because of this conference, DHS staff and youth in care now have resources they might not have received otherwise. Teens R 4 Me was truly a success! Thank you to DHS for asking GUIDE to be a part of this incredibly life-changing conference.

Team Building Activity: Focus Ring

Start the year off with a fun and engaging team building activity! This activity will encourage participants to focus on goals, identify obstacles and work together to accomplish a task.

Focus Ring

Time Needed: 15-20 minutes

Group Size: Any!


  • 1 key ring per 7-10 participants
  • 7-10 pieces of string (approximately 36-48 inches each) per key ring
  • Rope
  • Golf ball
  • 2 paper cups

Activity Preparation:

  • Before starting the activity, make sure that 7-10 strings are tied to a key ring and that they are equal distance apart. If you have more than 10 participants, use as many key rings as needed; just make sure there are no more than 10 strings per key ring.
  • Place the key ring(s) on top of an upside down paper cup. Spread out the strings.
  • Once the ring and strings are placed, set the golf ball on top of the key ring.
  • Place a rope around the perimeter of the stretched out strings.
  • Position another upside down paper cup 4-6 feet away from the rope.  


Using the key ring and strings, carry the golf ball from its origination point to the top of the other paper cup.


  • Each participant only gets to operated one string.
  • Participants must hold onto the end of the string and no other place.
  • Participants may not step inside of the rope.
  • If the ball falls off the key ring, the group must start again.
  • If the paper cup falls over, the group must start again.
  • The group is successful when the ball is balanced on top of the second paper cup.

Debrief Questions:

  1. What was the initial reaction of the group?
  2. What skills did it take to succeed as a group?
  3. What would an outsider identify as the strengths and weaknesses of the group?
  4. What did you learn about yourself during the activity? What did you learn about others?
  5. How does this activity relate to current projects the group is working on?

We’d love to hear from you! If you decide to use this activity with your group, please let us know how it goes!

Team Building Activity: Sticks, Stones & Bones

Throughout our blogging journey, one of the ways we’re going to help you keep connected is by sharing with you team building activities you can do with your own group. We’d love to hear how this works with your group and/or see photos of it in action! This team building activity will help participants learn how to effectively communicate in order to work better as a team! 

Sticks, Stones & Bones

Time Needed: 10-15 minutes


For each pair of participants, you need:Sticks, Stones & Bones

  • Two matching popsicle sticks (sticks)
  • Two similar small rocks or dice (stones)
  • Two matching dominos (bones)

Group Size: Any!

Activity Instructions:

  1. Have participants pair up and sit back to back.
  2. Give each pair a set of materials, making sure that each person in the pair gets one popsicle stick, one small rock or die and one domino.
  3. Have each pair decide who will be the leader for the first round. The leader starts by arranging the three items in a pattern on the ground in front of him/herself, and then describes the arrangement to his/her partner. The partner is not allowed to speak or look around while the other person is arranging and/or describing.
  4. The partner should replicate the arrangement based on their partner’s description.
  5. When completed, have partners look at each other’s patterns.
  6. Then, switch roles and begin again. Allow two minutes for each round.
  7. Process using the below questions or ones that you’ve come up with on your own.

Debrief Questions:

  1. What happened during this activity?
  2. Did the patterns turn out the same? Why or why not?
  3. How did leaders feel when they saw their partners’ patterns?
  4. How or when did problems arise?
  5. Did you and/or your partner figure out ways to communicate non-verbally?  If so, how?
  6. How does this relate to working with others in the real world?