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Youth Development Conference Participants Focus on 'Interactions in Action'

Civil Air Patrol's Cadet Programs directorate hosted the third annual Youth Development Conference online Jan. 14-16, drawing 90 participants – including wing- and region-level cadet program directors, CAP-USAF liaison region staff, national cadet team members and positive youth development experts – to explore “Interactions in Action.”

The conference focused on leveraging the experiential learning cycle and choice theory strategies to help leaders think about program development and explore how the simple habit of reflection can significantly affect youth development, elevating cadets' experiences from fun and memorable to meaningful, substantial moments of growth.

Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Raymond Johns, former Air Mobility Command commander and now an orientation ride pilot for the Hawaii Wing as a Civil Air Patrol senior member, kicked off the conference Jan. 14 with a challenge to meet people where they are and focus on their dreams, not the participant’s.

Expert advice

The next day, Adam Russell, former senior program director for the American Youth Foundation, introduced the experiential learning mantra of “Do. Reflect. Apply.” to help leaders create experiences that foster personal growth. In addition, Jon Blumenfield, a former Pennsylvania Wing cadet who’s youth development consultant at Ask Them LLC, helped the group see opportunities for development by reflecting on past missed opportunities and re-imagining the delivery of current cadet activities.

The Cadet Programs team added a new element this year—external facilitators who guided the participants in small group sessions designed so participants had the opportunity to not only hear about experiential learning from speakers, but also participate in the experiential learning cycle as participants.

“I needed this encouragement with two years of COVID frustration,” one participant said.