Youth Focus

Youth Focus
"We need to make sure that no boy or girl in America is growing up without having in his or her life the presence of a responsible, caring adult. Where else does a child learn how to behave? Where else does a child learn the experiences of the past, the totems and traditions of the past? Where else does a child look for the proper examples except from responsible, caring, loving adults in his or her life?" General Colin L. Powell.

Isn't that quote right on target for all youth? Yet many are not able to experience. I challenge all adults to take youth under their guidance.

The underlying premise for one of the critical elements in positive youth development – that of a positive relationship with a caring adult – is that youth will develop caring and trusting relationships. Youth and adults should learn together and respect one another. A caring adult, whether he/she is called supporter, friend, or advocate, acts as an advisor, guide or mentor. The adult sets boundaries and expectations for young people.

Adult volunteers might consider the following questions: In our club?

  • Do youth participate equally with adults in planning, implementing and evaluating the club program? This can be in the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church youth groups club experience and I would use the following to evaluate your club time.
  • Is time provided for both youth and adults to meet and learn about each other?
  • Are opportunities provided and encouragement given for youth to continue friendships with other youth and adults?
  • Are members able to interact with adults to learn and have fun together?

    Some practices the 4-H club might want to implement, if they are not already being used are:

  • Using nametags so youth can get to know each other on a first name basis and so they can get to know the names of the adult volunteers as well.
  • Calling each member by his/her first name when he/she is addressed at club functions and by addressing each volunteer by their proper name as well.
  • Providing introductions and get-acquainted activities at each meeting.
  • Actively recruiting parents and other caring adults to serve as volunteers with your club – make a special effort to involve males in 4-H club programs and project work. Extension provides role descriptions, screening, orientation and training for this purpose.
  • Encouraging youth and adults to learn and participate as teams – rotating participation in the teams at each meeting. Adults should try to listen to and concentrate on what youth are saying rather than promoting their own ideas and downplaying others' suggestions.
  • Providing lists of names, addresses, and phone numbers so friendships can continue among all club members, leaders and parents.
  • Encouraging adults to interact with youth – such as mingling with youth at club meetings and functions rather than segregating themselves at the back of the room. Be sure you have adequate "adult presence" at 4-H events and activities.
  • Creating activities to celebrate and have fun together in addition to just meeting for club business. Picnics, potlucks, special outings, project groups, and club family gatherings are a few of the possibilities.

    The Search Institute in its "assets research" suggests that each young person should receive support from three or more non-parent adults. Communities need to provide young people with sustained adult relationships through which they experience support, care, and guidance. Caring and connectedness within and beyond the family are found to be powerful factors in protecting young people from negative behaviors and in encouraging good social skills, responsible values, and positive identity. Every child needs love, affirmation, and acceptance. Parents, extended family members, neighbors, teachers, community leaders, 4-H alums and adults who spend time with youth can all provide positive, caring relationships and can help to ensure that all children have at least three caring adults in their lives.

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