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Empower Youth, Empower the Community

Young people making a difference in one’s community can help bring a sense of involvement and empowerment to enrich lives. Young people need to feel valued and valuable; this happens when youth feel safe and respected. A youth’s involvement at home, in their neighborhood, at their school, or in their city can bring about a world of difference and give them the confidence to lead and make decisions. Not only does volunteering and getting involved in the community help develop personal experience, but it also helps those that are being served.

In addition, youth leading in community events and organizations helps bring fresh ideas to the table, creativity, and increases the youth’s perception of adults in the area. Let youth make decisions when applicable and always provide adequate resources and support. In youth’s words, “Let me take care of things when I think I can. Applaud my efforts and successes.”

You can help care, support, and empower young people in our community. The assets highlighted this month that help youth are:

Community values youth: Young people can perceive when adults in the community value youth. Youth who feel valued are more likely to grow up healthy, exhibit leadership, value diversity, and succeed in school.

Only 64% of youth in Pottawattamie County say that adults in the community give them praise to tell them they are proud when a young person does something well. Only 22% feel that adults value their opinions and input in the community.

Be sure to celebrate the big and small accomplishments of young people. Allow them to make decisions and have an active role in day-to-day activities. This will help increase trust and give youth the feeling that they are valued. Ask what they think and be sure to listen carefully without being judgmental.

Youth as resources: Having a voice means more than making a sound when you sing or shout. Helping young people find their voice through their talents, skills, and interests is one of the best ways to help them feel empowered to contribute to the community, school, or home in a positive way. When young people are given useful roles in the community and meaningful tasks, this will increase the likelihood that they will want to contribute. Have regular meetings that help set these tasks aside for youth and help encourage them to solve problems and lead.

Service to others: When young people start reach out and help others, their world grows and so does their confidence. Many people say that when they volunteer and serve others, they receive much in return. In Pottawattamie County, 46% of young people are volunteering an average of an hour or more a week.

97% of young people feel that it is important to help other people. Find ways to involve young people in service. Serving others doesn’t always have to be something big like organizing a coat drive or developing a website for a local church, it can be something small like holding the door open for someone else or helping your neighbor shovel their driveway. Try to serve as a role model and consider volunteering alongside a young person.

Safety: When young people feel safe at home, school, and their neighborhood, they can learn and grow. It seems like in today’s world, fears of crimes and accidents surround us. Young people pick up when adults feel anxious or in danger, even if they don’t tell children how they’re feeling. This may unintentionally add to young people’s insecurity by feeling anxious.

Be aware of your body language and words when talking with a child about dangers. Listen to their fears or concerns and identify people that they can turn to when they feel they are in trouble. Take an active role in ensuring the safety of the community by reporting unwanted behavior to school administrators or police if applicable.

Young people need to feel safe and valued in the community. This can be achieved when youth feel safe and respected by the adults that surround them in their daily life. Playing an active role in the development of youth will help them attain a healthy future and help the community at the same time.