NeighborWorks: Adults and Youth Working Together

My first work­shop was fo­cused on build­ing last­ing and ef­fec­tive re­la­tion­ships be­tween adults and youth in neigh­bor­hoods. To our ben­e­fit, there was a 17 year old girl in our work­shop whose in­sights vast­ly im­proved the qual­i­ty of the work­shops. I was look­ing for in­for­ma­tion on how to get youth in my ‘hood in­volved and keep them in­volved in im­prov­ing the neigh­bor­hood. Here are some bul­lets from my notes:

• Ask what youth have to of­fer to spark en­gage­ment. If they know their in­put is valu­able to you, they will be more in­ter­est­ed.
• Offer plen­ty of pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment and trust.
• Provide safe but re­laxed en­vi­ron­ments for youth to feel com­fort­able in.
• Be trans­par­ent about your own ex­pe­ri­ences. Saying “I was a teenager on­ce” but not ex­plain­ing the speci­fic in­stances that brought that re­mark out is es­sen­tial­ly ly­ing, and youth can pick that up.
• The prob­lems that face youth seem to be both sys­temic and pan­demic. That is, they re­ceive lit­tle to no sup­port from gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions and that the need for good lead­er­ship, pos­i­tive role mod­els, and qual­i­ty pro­grams to com­bat neg­a­tive in­flu­ences are found na­tion­wide.
• When plan­ning a youth pro­gram make sure to in­clude youth in the der­mi­na­tion of the process and the fu­ture of the pro­gram. I think that any­thing you ex­pect youth to be in­volved in should look for youth in­volve­ment from square one of plan­ning on.

• Look at the Louisville Office of Youth Development. They provide a book­let list­ing near­ly all of the youth-ori­ent­ed pro­grams in the Louisville area free of charge. Sure wish Cleveland had some­thing like this.

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