Relationships are one of the top priorities in a young person’s life. If you really want to make an impact start doing things with youth. Don’t get me wrong donations to support youth programs are great and needed. But if you want to make a lasting impact take an active role in the life of a young person. Too often we hear talk about the brain drain in our community and we can rattle off a list of youth who moved onto “bigger and better” things outside the Washington County lines. Think about this – if our youth grow up feeling like they are not valued by our community, what makes them want to stay or return to our county? As young people grow older, they quickly sense where they are wanted and where they aren’t.
Here are the facts:
Research shows that young people who perceive that adults in the community value young people are more likely to grow up healthy, exhibit leadership, value diversity, and succeed in school. Only 23 percent of Washington County young people perceive that adults in our community value their opinions and input, according to Search Institute’s Attitudes & Behavior survey conducted in 2006. As a county wide community, let’s set a goal to create an environment in which you and other adults take time to listen to young people, spend time with them, and give credit to their opinions.
Tips for building this asset
So what can we do as a community to show our youth they are valued? Ask yourself these questions:
- How often do we invite youth to express their thoughts and opinions?
- Do the young people around you have opportunities to participate, serve, lead, and make decisions within the community?
- Do these same young people feel the community supports children and youth?
- What kind of activities and entertainment options does our community have for youth?
- Are our businesses welcoming to youth as customers or employees?
If the answer to these questions is “not always” or “not enough,” it may be time to make some changes. After all, remember how you felt when you were young and the adults around you didn’t listen or give you credit for your opinions? Youth are one third of our population and all of our future. Our youth are the next generation of parents, teachers, political officials, neighbors, doctors, religious leaders, volunteers, employees, customers and list continues. Take action by standing side by side with youth to tackle community issues. Instead of always do things for youth let us start doing things with youth!