Challenging Youth Gurus

They have become a staple of the world of afterschool programs and nonprofits: youth gurus.

I’ve spent a few years traveling around the country teaching adults how to relate to children and youth, and a few more before that doing exactly that. Through reflection and relentless critical self-examination, I’ve arrived at a few trinkets of learning that I enjoy using to help others discover what they know.

Along my path, I’ve interacted with a number of folks who are out on the circuits telling youth workers, teachers, and parents how to do their jobs. These are the “experts” about youth who often come armed with an big egos that match questionable credentials in youth work.

Here are some signs that you fall into the guru category.

25 Signs You’re A Youth Guru

  1. All of your friends in real life are youth.
  2. You think people over 30 can’t “get” youth.
  3. “Said no one ever”, “twerk” and “friend jack” are normal parts of your everyday vocabulary.
  4. You check your TakingITGlobal and KooDooz accounts every day.
  5. You can’t go a day without taking a selfie.
  6. You get excited by pop culture disasters because it means another topic in your convos with youth.
  7. You don’t really know much about youth themselves.
  8. You spend a lot of time thinking about your resume.
  9. You met your boyfriend or girlfriend at a youth program.
  10. You drop pop culture references while talking with your grandma.
  11. You swear by the mantra, “YOLO.”
  12. You think having a website is the same as actually creating an organization.
  13. You always talk about youth without youth.
  14. If you’re young, you talk about youth like you’re not one.
  15. You describe yourself as a “youth networker.”
  16. One of your proudest moments was when you were retweeted by the White House.
  17. You see nothing wrong with dressing like a youth no matter what age you are.
  18. You talk about all youth like they’re the same, no matter who, what, when, where, why, and how you’re talking about them.
  19. You only go to new places, listen to new music, or try new experiences based on youth recommendations.
  20. You write guest blog posts as a “youth expert” to share your wisdom about how to get more followers and likes.
  21. Your worst nightmare is not being to access a group of young people for a whole day.
  22. You have used a variety of descriptors for your youth guru-ness, like “ninja,” “evangelist,” “maven,” “pro.”
  23. You would never email a youth; you only txt ppl instead.
  24. There is almost nothing you wouldn’t share with youth.
  25. You don’t see why it’s so hard for adults to relate to youth.

All that’s not to say that these youth gurus are bad or wrong. However, it is meant to challenge the assumption that simply because someone calls themselves a guru, they are one. Do your due diligence and ask about folks, ask hard questions, and find out whether they pass the muster beyond simple appearances. That’s the only way to know when you’re dealing with a genuine article!

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker and writer who researches, writes and shares about youth, education, and history. Learn more about me at

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