There are learnings about youth engagement everywhere there are young people, and every learning is different and unique, as well as similar and familiar. For the last few days, I’ve been at Miami University in Ohio learning about youth engagement with adult practitioners here. This is the at OPEC (Ohio Promoting WEllness & ReCovery) Conference, an annual gathering of youth workers, teachers, prevention/intervention specialists, counselors, administrators, executives and others who are involved throughout the field. Its a tremendous gathering, and I’m humbled to be here.
Today, I facilitated a 9-hour seminar focused on Project-Based Learning. It was an exciting day, filled with so much collaborative learning and so many generative processes that my I left with a full heart and amazed mind. Excitement bubbled throughout the day, with almost 50 people creating community, connecting with their peers and teaching each other the positive, powerful potential of Project Based Learning. It was exciting!
One of the most powerful activities we did was creating new learning about youth engagement specifically. After sharing our definitions, I explained that my research and practice has shown that youth engagement is simply young people doing the act of choosing the same thing over and over. Either it happens unconsciously or consciously, meaningful or otherwise, good or challenging. After talking about that for a while, we answered some key questions about youth engagement. I want to share the group’s responses to some of those questions here. Following are six questions, and the responses to our brainstorming.
1. How Does Youth Engagement Happen?
- When adults give youth a voice and choice
- With buy-in from everyone
- As a process
- By having opportunities to connect and feel empowered
- Authenticity of the leader/ adult ally/ mentor
- Showing them that they matter
- After much head banging and the sound of crickets chirping
- As a facilitator: I listen… I create space/ activity… and fun!!
- By being a living example of how life can be and all the possibilities that exist
- By giving responsibility/ say to target group
- Adults getting their egos out of the way
- With support of the community
- Buy-in from adults
- With consistency
- Give them the opportunity
- With patience, time and comittment
2. Why Does Youth Engagement Matter?
- Help youth find their purpose
- Positive use of time
- Youth are invested in something bigger than themselves
- Hope for the future
- They’re our kids!
- Creates meaningful engagement for a lifetime
- Avoid wasting time, energy and money on a strategy that doesn’t work
- Matters for the future
- Life change
- Change to happen
- It enhances the community (is better)
- Better health and social outcomes in the community/ relationships/ individual
- Higher protective factors, fewer risk factors
- So they feel like they belong and matter
- Future healthy adults
- Because no matter who you are or where you come from every person has value and can contribute their voice to make a positive difference in their community
- To ensure the youth can be productive citizens in the community
- Empower the next generation
- Create positive change
- To understand their identity
- Community change
- For society!! and what’s to come
- Our humanity is dependent on it
- Students do not always know what’s best
- It matters because it redirects their energy, it lets them know they matter and gives them a sense of purpose
3. When Does Youth Engagement Happen?
- When we listen to our youth
- When we really care
- When a connection is made
- Daily and when students initiate with direction
- When you make it relate to them
- When they can express their passion
- When youth are in pain looking for something different/ more than their current experience and situation
- All the time!
- Throughout a lifetime
- When you people are part of the decision-making process
- When we create the space or join it!
- When prevention folks put in extra effort
- When I stay out of it!
- When they are able to take possession (own it)
- When they are listened to
- When adults stop talking long enough to listen
- When adults listen
- When youth believe in what they are doing
- When kids are treated as experts in the topic or “them”
- When youth see beyond themselves
4. What Does Youth Engagement Do?
- Reduces abuse
- Empowers youth
- Improves communication
- Leads the pack
- Creates opportunity
- “Plants seeds of change”
- Changes directions of ones’ life
- Build life skills
- Fosters leaders and followers for all sectors and levels of society
- Creative outcomes
- Moves mountains
- Access most valuable resources: Our Youth!
- Helps to ensure we create youth who will change the world
- Provides vision
- Builds relationship
- Connects generations
- Gives knowledge
- Builds confidence
- (can) Creates safe space
- Empowers young people
- Builds skills
- Offers hope
- Creates change agents in the community
5. Who Is Youth Engagement For?
- The City of Columbus, families, and the continuous business growth of our city (purposeful, financially sound, etc.)
- Communities, families and peers
- Middle and high school youth in Union County but also all youth and youth workers
- For all the youth in the community and adults involved with them
- All people invested in young people
- Students of Lucas County – ALL of them!
- Whole community
- Local, national and global communities
- Inner city – low income families and youth! As well as the program facilitators and mentors
- Summit and Medina County students
- The community
- The rural Appalachian youth covering 2,600 square miles we serve in Ross, Pickaway, Pike, Fayette and Highland Counties
- Middle and high school students in Clement Co.
- Afterschool program at middle school – 70% free/ reduced lunch
6. Where Does Youth Engagement Happen
- Summer camps
- In relationship
- Where there is youth!
- Family night engagement activities with afterschool students
- After school
- In school
- At home
- Social network
- Anywhere that you show intentional use of self
- Wherever they are
- Afterschool and in the community
- With our communications
- In our neighborhood
- In the hearts and minds of our youth
- Now – anywhere!
- Across the social ecological model
- Where there is love
- Coalition meetings
- School, home, anywhere
- Parent-free areas (not the good youth engagement)
- Anywhere there are youth
- Where there is need and the desire to make a difference
- Wherever the message and connection happens
- In the streets
- Afterschool youth center
- In our homes
- Summer camps
- In relationships
There was so much information shared in this GREAT seminar! Watch for another post coming with a great artistic creation by the group.
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