Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success

Strengthening and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at Virginia Commonwealth University

A large group of youth development professionals pose together.

Richmond youth development professionals celebrate the end of the year Youth Program Quality Intervention at Virginia Credit Union in June 2018.

Funds will be used to provide two series of youth development training workshops.

The Toolbox at MFYC: A Youth Development Training Community, developed by the VCU Mary and Frances Youth Center (MFYC), is a comprehensive approach to professional development for youth-serving organizations and responds to a growing need for high quality, unique and diverse youth development workshops. The $60,000 sponsorship will allow MFYC to expand development opportunities for youth programs and further emphasize important conversations surrounding youth development. Specifically, funding will support a series of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) workshops and build on the strengths of the youth development community through quarterly Toolbox Community Conversations.

“Sponsorship from the Virginia Credit Union will be instrumental in ensuring these [youth development] organizations have the opportunity to attract and retain qualified, caring people to support families in the region with meaningful afterschool experiences,” said Charles Johnson, training and compliance manager of the Mary and Frances Youth Center.

The Toolbox will host a series of 10 SEL workshops with the aid of VACU’s support. These workshops will help staff develop important soft skills that they can model and teach to the youth in their programs. The funds will also sponsor Community Conversations, a quarterly series where youth development professionals can connect, discuss relevant topics and find support with one another.

Even before the pandemic, the MFYC found that Out-of-School Time (OST) providers sought professional development opportunities and financial and logistical support. These needs were only exacerbated by the challenges of the pandemic. The pandemic “dramatically affected how The Toolbox at MFYC operated and launched,” Johnson said. To address community challenges, The Toolbox subsidized the cost of workshops, sought workshops that could be offered for free and added training topics to meet the ongoing social, emotional and mental health needs of both staff and youth. 

Two women watch a presentation. One woman is engaged in conversation.
The Toolbox at MFYC: A Youth Development Training Community participants engage in a training about Supervising Young Adults Using a Mentoring Mindset on April 13, 2022.

Despite many challenges, the program successfully connected with and provided support for dozens of youth development professionals. Since its launch in late 2020, 99 OST organizations have attended professional development workshops offered by The Toolbox. The workshops cover topics such as Youth Mental Health First Aid, Secondary Trauma, How to Talk About Race and Equity, Conflict Management/Coping Skills and more.

“Our Community Conversations came out of a direct need for staff at local OST organizations to talk with other staff about how they were overcoming pandemic challenges,” Johnson said.  It has expanded to include collaboration ideas, programmatic needs and networking.

Workshops are now available fully in-person. Community Conversations are hosted in local spaces, adding a new layer of community engagement by allowing staff to visit sites that have the resources to support their needs. As the needs of the youth development community shift once again, The Toolbox continues to seek regular input and partner with experts in the field to adjust its approach as needed. Support from VACU is an essential part of allowing The Toolbox to continue offering logistical and financial support to Richmond’s youth development community.

“We love the concept of The Toolbox at MFYC,” said Cherry Dale, vice president for financial education at Virginia Credit Union. “Bringing local nonprofits together to share ideas and resources strengthens our area’s youth-focused programs and makes the whole community stronger. As a member-owned cooperative eager to help young people learn to manage money and make sound financial decisions, Virginia Credit Union is happy to partner with the MFYC in their vital work.”

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