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Rethinking minority youth development

Rethinking developmental competencies in minority children.
The context in which one lives is key in distilling the development process.
February 4, 2016

ASU conference celebrates landmark model of educational equality for minority children

To get an idea of how increasingly diversified the United States has become, all one has to do is look to the current occupants of the polestar of American iconography: the White House.

The Obamas represent a growing population of minorities in positions of power. And though minorities have come a long way in this country, they still face certain prejudices associated with belonging to underrepresented demographic groups.

Many of those prejudices were challenged for the first time in academia with the 1996 publication of “An Integrative Model for the Study of Developmental Competencies in Minority Children.” For the past 20 years, the groundbreaking paper has served as the foremost guide on research involving underprivileged youth.

To commemorate its 20th anniversary, faculty at Arizona State University’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics have convened a meeting to discuss advances in the field and to propose future directions for theory and empirical work. “Looking Back & Looking Forward” kicked off Thursday morning with a panel discussion that included remarks from Cynthia Garcia Coll and Foundation Professor of psychology Keith CrnicKeith Crnic also serves as chair of ASU’s Department of Psychology., both of whom are authorsThe authors of “An Integrative Model for the Study of Developmental Competencies in Minority Children” include Cynthia Garcia Coll; Gontran Lamberty; Renee Jenkins; Harriet Pipes McAdoo; Keith Crnic; Barbara Hanna Wasik; and Heidie Vazquez Garcia. of the paper.

Sponsored by the Latino Resilience Enterprise, the Sanford School and ASU’s Department of Psychology, the conference, which continues today, drew participants from universities across the country and as far away as Europe.

“We have such an incredible lineup of distinguished scholars serving as panelists, and we also have a really great list of attendees,” said Sanford School professor Adriana Umana-Taylor, one of the organizers of the event who also spoke on the day’s first panel.

Other panel discussions on Thursday included “Colorblindness in psychological sciences” and “The role of culture in development and adjustment,” on which fellow Sanford School professor, and the event’s other organizer, Jose Causadias spoke.

people speaking on panel at conference

Cynthia Garcia Coll (middle) speaks during
"Looking Back & Looking Forward" as Adrianna
Umana-Taylor (left) and Keith Crnic (right) look on.
Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The reason the 1996 paper was so seminal, he explained, was because it presented the “first model to emphasize competence among minority children,” as opposed to disability.

Previous models of developmental competence among youth failed to take into account the context in which minority children live — which includes realities like a lack of educational resources — while comparing them to privileged white youth.

“My argument has always been that this is how to do good science ... asking you to think about how human beings live inside a context, and context is incredibly important in distilling the development process,” Garcia Coll said during a discussion following the first panel.

Participants of the conference will also be discussing ways in which the Garcia Coll model can be updated to include, for example, LGBT youth.

As Crnic explained, “[The conference] will provide an incredible opportunity to examine how our understanding has grown over the past 20 years, and identify new major directions for our efforts to address diverse experience in human development.”

Today’s panel discussions include “How Prejudice and Discrimination Shape Development and Adjustment in the United States”; “Do we need to expand the definition of ‘underrepresented’? Development and adjustment of LGBT, poor, and affluent White youth”; and “Looking ahead: Updating the map for a changing territory.”

“This is just one example of why ASU is number one in innovation,” Causadias said. “It shows how we are gathering people together and leading an effort to rethink the next 20 years of psychological research with minority children.”

County internship program offers ASU students an inside look at public service

February 5, 2016

For ASU undergraduate Jesse Potestas, finding the perfect internship opportunity was literally seeing the sign.

Potestas, a global health major, was doing research in the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus library when he saw a sign advocating Maricopa County Leadership and Education Advancing Public Service, or quite simply MCLEAPS. MCLEAPS presentations Jesse Potestas presents his group's work in the MCLEAPS internship program to a group of county, university and community attendees. Download Full Image

“MCLEAPS interns experience what is currently happening in government, what’s working and some of the innovative programs being implemented,” said ASU coordinator for the program Maryjo Douglas Zunk. “And, as the fourth largest county in the nation, Maricopa County offers a great variety of these experiences.”

MCLEAPS is an ASU-Maricopa County partnership, administered by ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions but available to all ASU students. Students compete for paid, work-learning opportunities within various departments of Maricopa County.

“There’s a real need for county officials and employees to transfer knowledge to a new generation, and MCLEAPS has been a really good program in helping to do just that,” Douglas Zunk said.

Potestas’ internship took him to the Air Quality Department of Maricopa County, where he was excited and a little surprised at how much he was able to see and learn.

Potestas helped research Travel Reduction Programs, which are designed to have institutions and businesses partner with the county government in an effort to implement ways of reducing emissions. This includes encouraging employees to use public transportation or even carpool so that the emissions released in the air by motor vehicles is reduced. In part of this research, Potestas interacted and consulted with other counties in the state, as well as on national and worldwide levels.

“It was an interesting ‘hands on’ experience,” Potestas stated. “We were interacting with people and working towards a solution that could potentially be implemented into county protocol.”

The internship also demonstrated just how deep some of these departments go, as he was able to sit in on stakeholder meetings and was also able to visit some pretty obscure destinations.

One of the businesses Potestas toured as part of an inspection was an actual crematorium, ensuring their practices were up to the Air Quality Department’s code.

Postestas also reveled in the fact that he was able to sit in on Maricopa Association of Government (MAG) sessions with various officials, being able to discuss planning of large valley events such as last year’s Super Bowl.

“The Air Quality Department internship was not just that, it also highlighted the inner-workings of professional public service,” Potestas said. “Knowing that I want to be a component of public service, it gave me something I could look forward to.”

The MCLEAPS program not only helps ASU students gain valuable knowledge and experience, but also helps to better Maricopa County as a whole. ASU students are residents of the county while attending the University, and their work in the program benefits the residents of Maricopa County. So the Interns are fulfilling the purpose of Maricopa County programs, “citizens helping citizens.”

“Everyone is aware of federal, state, and city government but the county is really not thought of as much in regards to public service,” said Mary Ellen Sheppard, assistant manager of Maricopa County and director of human resources. “This is an opportunity to educate students about county governments, and I think that is critical.”

Sheppard enjoys the fact that MCLEAPS offers students a chance to come in and see what the county is doing, ask questions, challenge, contribute, and ultimately to get excited about public service.

“What MCLEAPS brings to the county, is such energy and questioning, which is good for us,” Sheppard said. “Being able to see how our employees manage all they are responsible for educates the interns, and the more they know, the better prepared they are to influence the future of government work.”

The internship program spans a wide range of departments in Maricopa County. Each semester is different and may include Environmental Services, Flood Control District, Human Resources, Juvenile Probation, the Education Service Agency, or the County Attorney and Treasurer’s Offices.

New projects proposals will be announced later this spring for participation in fall 2016.  The new internships will be posted and open to all ASU students who complete the online application process, and will give students an in-depth view of how their particular “piece”, or career area of interest, functions in the government puzzle.

For more information about the MCLEAPS Internship Program students are encouraged to visit the ASU website or contact MaryJo Douglas Zunk at

Written by Christopher Hernandez

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions