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University of Minnesota Twin Cities, School of Social Work

Urban Skater


4 Credits, undergraduate

This course explores issues faced by youth, especially those who live in or are characterized by our understanding of urban areas. We might begin by asking questions like “why aren’t youth in racially segregated and economically privileged urban areas of Minneapolis labeled “urban”, while poor immigrant youth in the suburban housing projects of Paris are,” “how did city planners and urban housing policy act to segregate and problematize some geographies and people” or “how are urban communities policed and what are the consequences of this policing”?

We will critically examine what the term “urban youth” means, how it has evolved over time and place and its use as a code word with implicit association and within this context how urban youth have been studied, problematized and worked with. Using a critical Youth Studies framework, which engages with the role of historical, social, cultural, geographical and political contexts, we seek to understand how each of these axes of power-relations influence the opportunities and struggles of young people, their interaction with institutions and the construction of their identities in particular places. We then seek to rethink new directions in research and practice and understand what this means for youth as citizens. 

WAIVED during COVID-19 pandemic: 

This class is a part of the Community Engaged Learning (CEL) program. Students will combine direct work with youth in the community with classroom learning. The objective is for students to make valuable contributions to communities, gain practical experience and apply the knowledge gained in the classroom to their service learning work. Students will also be able to discuss, reflect and write about their community –engaged experiences. This class offers a unique opportunity to engage with diverse youth in different settings thus gaining valuable skills that can be useful for future professional practice in many fields including, education, recreation, mental health and youth work.

Image by Rubén Rodriguez


4 credits, undergraduate or graduate

Most young people in the U.S. spend at least 6 hours per day for at least 6 years in a school building, doing “school work”. There, they are students, and participate in adult designed classes, in co-curricular activities such as clubs and teams, and other activities, and in youth-formed worlds, such as jocks, nerds, stoners, council kids, hicks and the like. Professional staff learn to read and understand these youth primarily as students and less so as youth or young people. Typically, educators learn some about adolescent development and psychology, about what is typical and common of young people in middle and high school. They also learn some about youth who are troubled, troubling and in trouble. By and large, educators are practical folk who study and use “practical knowledge” so as to better teach and otherwise serve their students. This course intends to enrich the knowledge of school professionals in two ways:

One contribution will be centered on young people and their life-worlds, in school, outside and between the two, e.g. family, work lives, play lives, spiritual lives, friendship lives, etc. The second is a focus on youthwork as a craft orientation and occupation. In this view, most professional educators can approach some of their work as youthworkers, and they can work with designated youthworkers from the school and from community agencies in the service of young people and the school. The goals are more effective service for young people through deeper understanding of these persons and, reciprocally we believe, less existential burnout by educators, i.e. a loss of personal meaning in their work.

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