Promoting Positive Youth Development 
with Education- and Community-Based Nonprofits in Washtenaw County 

This website is devoted toward educating the public on the Dilemmas Facing Youth Today, and of the use of The Nonprofit Sector as a Supplemental Educational Service Provider.  In so doing, descriptive listings of self-identified nonprofits are provided with links to their existing websites, and with street level maps pinpointing their exact location within major cities.  These listings currently provide information on the following nonprofit service areas:
                    •  Self-Identified, Education-Based Nonprofits in Washtenaw County
                    •  Self-Identified, Community-Based Nonprofits in Washtenaw County

Demographic Profile Maps of Washtenaw County in Relation to the Education- and Community-Based Nonprofits are also provided.

This website may be of service to at least three distinct user groups:


Dilemmas Facing Youth Today

The Center for Youth Development and Policy Research (CYD) was established by the Academy for Educational Development in 1990 to research, define and promote national and community strategies for positive youth development.  As a part of its five year, public education initiative, entitled the Mobilization for Youth Development, the CYD has aimed its efforts at "increasing America’s understanding of, and investment in, establishing a cohesive infrastructure of community supports for youth."  These efforts have centered around increasing the dialogue and debate among youth organizations and communities in planning and testing strategies to address the gaps in services for community youth.

In her testimony before the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, Karen J. Pittman, of the CYD, identified several findings that need to be addressed in order for communities to best promote the healthy development of their youth (Pittman & Fleming, 1991).  As an overarching element, Pittman noted the fact that adolescents from all backgrounds are increasingly engaged in behaviors, or faced with conditions, which jeopardize their lives.  These behaviors and conditions relate to lifestyle choices, attitudes toward education, and relationships to the larger society.  Today, the problems facing communities include:

1.  Too many youth lack the skills and competencies needed for future success:
As revealed in a 1991 national study, most American students have not mastered basic arithmetic at a time when such proficiency has become increasingly necessary to succeed in the work place.  In addition to inadequate academic skills, many who enter the work force have little understanding of the rules of the work place;  they also have limited problem solving, decision-making, and team building skills.

2.  Too many youth lack connections to family, school, community, and society:
Today’s youth have limited adult contact, supervision, and guidance.  They are also given few opportunities to contribute to their communities, and therefore are void of the experiences and knowledge necessary to build their sense of identity in the world.  As a means of encouraging the development of responsible citizens, these experiences are crucial to our community youth, and must be provided.

3.  Too many youth engage in behaviors that threaten their health and their futures:
As estimated by researchers, 25% of America’s 10-17 year-olds are "high-risk" youth involved in behaviors such as heavy alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, delinquency, unprotected and premature sexual intercourse, or school truancy.


The Nonprofit Sector as a Supplemental Educational Service Provider

In addressing these problems facing today’s youth, it has become increasingly necessary to draw upon the resources and programming capabilities of the nonprofit sector to assist in the task of promoting positive youth development in communities.  Unlike the public and private sectors of our economy, the nonprofit sector has received comparably little attention by the citizens of our nation, despite its rapid growth in size and range of services.  However, as the demand for community-specific public goods increases, greater emphasis and reliance on the nonprofit sector will rise.

One significant factor that will lead to a greater reliance on the nonprofit sector is the limited capacity of public school systems to address the problems of today’s youth. Public schools have come under ever-increasing scrutiny over the quality of their educational services.  Schools have also come under innumerable budgetary attacks.  Due to these current pressures, looking beyond the public school system for solutions must now be seen as a necessity rather than a mere option.  This is not meant to reflect on the inadequacy of our public school systems, but rather on the long, misguided reliance upon them as the primary, and perhaps even sole, institution responsible for the positive development of our youth.  Communities must take a more active part in these educational and social support efforts.

A second leading factor that may contribute to the greater utilization of the nonprofit sector as a supplementary resource for promoting positive youth development is the fact that, since nonprofit organizations do not exist principally to earn profits, the general public may prefer them over private alternatives as service providers (Salamon, 1992).  Since the public’s confidence in the public school system has waned over the years, two other service sectors may fill the needs and demands of the public for additional educational services:  the private sector and the nonprofit sector.  While some parents may opt to obtain private educational services for their children, many families cannot afford this option.  Many others may still have great doubts about where their dollars are going, and whether or not the private educational services provided merit their additional monetary contributions.  The nonprofit sector may provide a viable alternative to addressing the public sector’s concerns.  Contract failure is referred to by economists as a situation in which the purchasers of services are not the same as the consumers (Salamon, 1992).  In relation to education, parents and taxpayers may be viewed as the purchasers of educational services that are to be consumed by the younger generations of individuals, as a means of investing in and developing the human capital of their communities for future economic prosperity.  In this case, unable to assess the adequacy of the educational services themselves, the parents and taxpayers may substitute the market mechanism with a provider they can trust.  Without the incentive to earn profits, the nonprofit sector may therefore become a potentially effective service provider that is preferable to a majority of the public.

A third reason to look upon the nonprofit sector as a potentially powerful educational partner, working in conjunction with public schools to promote positive youth development, rests upon two of its main strengths:  its ability to offer a diversity of experiences to its consumers, and its ability to act as an experimental arena in which new educational ideas may be explored and tested.  Within the highly political environment in which public schools must operate, efforts at educational reform have stagnated.  As teachers' unions and administrations try to maintain authority and top-down control of school systems, change within the system becomes more and more difficult.  Though demands from the public for educational reform have increased, such reforms are slow to come.  Salamon notes that nonprofit organizations encourage individual initiative for the public good just as for-profit corporations encourage individual action for the private good.  Overall, with less bureaucracy and greater freedom in implementing new ideas, the nonprofit sector may be viewed as a flexible vehicle by which to initiate educational reforms.


1.   Pittman, Karen J., and Fleming, Wanda E.  (1991).  "A New Vision:  Promoting Youth Development".  Center for Youth Development and Policy Research.  Academy for Development.  Washington, D.C.

2.   Salamon, Lester M.  (1992).  America’s Nonprofit Sector:  A Primer.  New York: The
Foundation Center.