Graduate Certificate - Youth Development Specialist

Required Course

Foundations of Youth Development

This course examines the fundamentals of youth development and the youth development profession. Through this introduction to the field, students explore the ethical, professional, and historical elements of youth development as it has evolved toward professionalism.

Select Four Courses

Adolescents and Their Families

This course covers adolescent development as it relates to and intertwines with family development; it examines reciprocal influences between adolescents and their families. The study highlights working with youth in relation to the family system.

Community Youth Development

This course focuses on the national emphasis of a strength-based or asset approach to community youth development and encompasses individual development (i.e., positive youth development) and adolescent interrelationships with environments. The course highlights research, theory, and practice applied in communities throughout the U.S. Students explore existing models, read theoretical and applied literature, and examine current community efforts as a basis for understanding community youth development.

Youth Policy

This course examines various federal and state policies designed specifically for youth. Students examine how and why policies for youth are constructed. Students evaluate existing state and national policies using a guiding is whether they contribute to or act as barriers to desired developmental outcomes.

Youth Development

This course introduces students to the developmental period of adolescence. Students examine this developmental period through the lens of theory and research of positive youth development. The course emphasizes how the developmental tasks of this life stage are influenced by (and influence) family and home, school, peers, and other contextual forces. Students critically examine theoretical and research literature and become familiar with major issues and transitions adolescents face as they successfully navigate this developmental stage.

Youth in Cultural Contexts

This course examines cultural context factors that affect youth from a holistic perspective within and outside the family unit. The course provides understanding of the cultural heritage of differing family structures and types. Students explore social and educational processes experienced by youth; this exploration includes through in-depth reading, writing, discussion, critical listening, viewing of contemporary videos, and informal interviews with youth. Students are encouraged to think critically about society and culture, to gain further knowledge of how ethnic groups fit historically into society, and to examine the results of how history has shaped the current cultural climate of the U.S.

Contemporary Youth Issues: Serving Youth from Small Towns to Big Cities

This course examines the impact of context on youth socioemotional and cognitive development, including youth risk behaviors. The role of neighborhoods and urban/rural distinction is be a particular focus of the course.

Contemporary Youth Issues: Grant Development and Management

This is a basic grant development and management course that introduces students to the grant-getting process and provides an overview of what happens after a project is funded. The following topics are part of the course: researching funding sources, generating cutting edge ideas, assessing needs, planning a project, establishing credibility, formulating a sustainable budget, designing an evaluation plan, managing the funded project, and disseminating project results. Course objectives are to establish grant development basics, to identify sources of funding information, examine the essential components of a proposal, increase comfort with grant proposal writing, and explore best practices for program management.

Contemporary Youth Issues: Improving Adolescent Health

The health and well-being of adolescents in the United States and around the world is influenced by the environments where teens live, learn, work, and play. This course focuses on contextual factors that affect adolescent health and examines the role of the youth development practitioner in improving health outcomes for youth.

Contemporary Youth Issues: Understanding Normative Behavior in Immigrant & Minority Youth

This course explores the etiology of adolescent deviance using a positive, cross-national/crosscultural perspective. Course content includes implications of theory, empirical research, current prevention programs and needs assessments. The course offers a look at deviance from different perspectives as well as a comparison of normative and non-normative development of youth.

Contemporary Youth Issues: Brain Development

The main focus of this course is to provide a deeper understanding about brain development and the role of evolutionary perspectives on human development and behavior. Students learn to * Correctly identify primary brain structures and neural systems essential to understanding brain development and evolutionary perspectives on human development, * Correctly identify and describe key theories that explain evolutionary perspectives on human development, * Identify and extract key concepts from assigned readings, videos, and movies and integrate the information in dialogue within course discussions, and * Develop and present a final project that integrates key concepts from the course based upon the student's primary focus in brain development (such as, traumatic brain injury, affective disorders, or nutrition).

Contemporary Youth Issues: Youth, Families & Technology

Development of technology in the last century has changed our geographical and physical perception of the world, challenged our ideas about social norms, affected the process of our identity formation, and altered our social location and interaction with others. Focusing particularly on the family and the youth both in the U.S. and outside, this course aims to help graduate students better understand the interconnectedness of technology and youth/family. The class debunks many common myths (for instance, that youth today have no sense of privacy online or the traditional idea that the family is negatively affected by digital technology) while helping students understand the relationship between the human and technology. Designed both for theorists and practitioners, this approach ultimately allows enrolled students to formulate constructive and realistic strategies to enrich the life of a family or a youth in a society heavily dependent on technology. Topics of the course include identity formation, privacy, race, class, gender, subculture, risky behavior, policing, education, globalization, health, and policies. The class offers basic technical skills for future practitioners, including using Twitter for professional purposes, assessing a Google resume, editing a video clip, and creating a personal website.

Contemporary Youth Issues: Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy & Parenthood

This course explores adolescent sexuality development, sexual behaviors, and pregnancy/ parenthood. These topics will be explored with respect to normative development and the reciprocal influences of the youth’s ecology (i.e., family, school, community). Implications for professionals working with youth sexuality, pregnancy, and parenthood will be explored and highlighted.

Contemporary Youth Issues: Working with Adolescents with Difficulties

Adolescence roughly covers the years from 12 to 18. However, issues important in adolescence often begin before age 12 and may extend way past 18 years of age into young adulthood. This course examines cognitive, self, and social transitions during this important formative period of life. Issues of identity pervade our understanding of adolescents and affect development with family, peers, school, and work. Identity also plays a central role in gender, intimacy, and sexuality. How adolescents, parents, siblings, peers, teachers, and society deal with these elements, tasks, and situations make the study of adolescence fascinating. Adolescents, as a group, have idealism, energy, and hope that affects our whole society. In turn, society affects adolescent development.
Program Summary
Cost per credit hour:

Summer 2017: $545
2017-2018: $565

36 Hours


13 Hours


13 Hours

University Contact
These campus coordinators can help you navigate Great Plains IDEA. Click on the university name to learn more about how Great Plains IDEA works at that campus. Karen Smidt
Rachel Ohmes
Meagan Mitin
Karen Murie
Leslie McClure Myatt
University of Missouri
Nita Smarr
Lisa King
University Members
Members of the Great Plains IDEA are universities accredited by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Member universities recruit, admit and graduate students, teach in an academic program and contribute to the leadership and maintenance of the alliance. Membership in the alliance is a selective process that engages institutional leadership at all levels.

– – Jacy Phillips, University of Nebraska-Lincoln