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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