professional development

The GENERATE Fellowship: A fellowship for early career teen engagement professionals

In Short

Teen engagement professionals have been and will continue to be on the front lines designing and executing opportunities

Teens today are holding multiple tensions. On the one hand, teens are hopeful. For the first time in over sixteen months they are able to engage in activities indicative of normal teen development, like hanging out with friends in person, attending experiential opportunities like summer camp, and engaging in lifecycle moments like birthdays and graduations. These experiences help teens rediscover pieces of their identity that have been suppressed and appreciate the power of being together as a community. Even with the return to a more normal environment, however, some teens continue to face challenges. The trauma of the past year is still present and will continue to affect their social and emotional well-being into the future. Teen engagement professionals have been and will continue to be on the front lines designing and executing opportunities that meet the needs of their teens on an ongoing basis. As we re-envision a post-COVID reality in our learning environments, we must support teen engagement professionals, especially those new to the field, to understand the challenges of teens today, to recognize the tensions that arise in their professional roles, and to feel equipped to serve as mentors for their teens now and in the future. 

Generously funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and built on the success of the Generation Now Fellowship and the FindYourSummer.org program, the GENERATE fellowship is a one year fellowship experience to provide early career teen engagement professionals (0-3 years of experience) with the tools, skills and knowledge to become better mentors for their teens. In its pilot year, as the FindYourSummer.org Ambassadors program, the fellowship featured a six session arc of learning based on understanding Generation Z and how they see the world, combined with a 1:1 mentorship program for teen professionals in the New York area. Participants shared that they became more aware of the issues teens face today and ways to best support them and that their 1:1 mentoring helped them become stronger mentors for their teens. While the program was impactful, we learned that in order to best equip our early career teen professionals to serve today’s teens, we must provide a more comprehensive fellowship model. The GENERATE Fellowship focuses on providing teen engagement professionals with the foundation they need through multiple avenues of learning. 

Cross Denominational Network of Teen Professionals

The GENERATE fellowship will feature a cross-denominational cohort of fellows from across the United States. Since 60% of Jewish teens today belong to two or more youth serving organizations, we recognize  that most Jewish teens today express comfort moving between movements often participating in the offerings of multiple Youth Serving Organizations with different visions for contemporary Jewish life. We must lift up the value of cross denominational learning early in teen engagement professionals’ careers, not just to encourage collaboration and shared resources, but to plan experiences based on the ways teens want to grow and thrive in the world. 

Arc of Learning to Understands Teen’s Today

Learning in The GENERATE Fellowship is designed around cutting-edge Gen Z Now research and learner outcomes focused on how teens want to grow and thrive. The eight sessions will be designed and facilitated by leaders in the field of Jewish teen engagement and explore ways to adapt the material for their own settings. Content ranges from foundational teen engagement knowledge, like developmental stages of teens and group dynamics, to content aimed to support the mental and emotional well-being of our teens as we transition back to our institutions in a post COVID-19 reality.  

 Fellows also will have time to process key tensions that arise in the teen professional experience, including: 

  • Self vs. Institution: How do I balance my values as a teen engagement professional versus the values of the institution in which I am a part of?
  • Community vs. Content: How do I balance creating community and delivering educational content in the teen engagement space? In a post-Covid reality, is there a new balance? 
  • Universalism vs. Particularism:  What does it mean to work with a universalist generation within a particularist framework? Recognizing this tension, what is my role, as a teen engagement professional, in ensuring that teens feel seen, heard and understood in my institution?

Ongoing Mentorship from Inside and Outside the Institutional Structure 

In addition to robust learning opportunities, The GENERATE Fellowship provides teen professionals with ongoing mentorship from professionals both outside and inside their institutions.  Additionally, and importantly, the supervisors of these teen professionals will engage in two sessions to increase their own tools, skills and knowledge to support the teen engagement professional in their institution throughout the program and beyond. We believe that this multi-pronged approach will enable teen engagement professionals to process challenges that arise within their setting and successfully apply what they’ve learned within their institution.

Microgrant Funding towards Application of Knowledge 

Ultimately, The GENERATE fellowship is meant to help teen professionals re-envision programming that will meet the needs of today’s teens. In order to further contribute to this effort, GENERATE fellows will be eligible for microgrant funding towards a specific project that enhances teen engagement in their settings based on what they learned throughout the fellowship experience. This step will encourage teen professionals not just to engage with ideas throughout the fellowship experience, but provide an avenue to apply the learning to their settings.

The GENERATE fellowship will provide a strong foundation for early career teen professionals to succeed in their roles by learning about challenges teens are facing, exploring tensions that arise in their roles as teen professionals, growing a national network of like-minded professionals to serve as colleagues, receiving ongoing mentorship from inside and outside their institution, having access to microgrant funding to apply learning, and in turn, serving as stronger mentors for their teens. We look forward to learning together! 

 Jodie Goldberg is an Education Consultant, Teen Engagement and Educator Networks, at The Jewish Education Project and is the Director of the GENERATE Fellowship. Interested in learning more or to apply for the GENERATE fellowship experience click here for additional information.