Laura is a 17-year-old from Ontario, Canada. She enjoys reading, traveling, and music. In her free time, she loves watching Friends reruns.
“Youth will one day rule the world”. This statement, although true, can seem a bit scary and overwhelming. It will eventually happen, but people see it as a far-off occurrence. However, being prepared for the future is extremely valuable to the entire community.
Youth engagement is very important. Involving youth in decision-making and allowing them a voice in their community is crucial preparation for the nearing future. Youth engagement is something I feel should be present in every community. Teenagers are at a stage in their life which can define them for many years to come. When they are presented with the opportunity to give their opinion on different topics and issues and to make an impact in their community, this enables them to grow.
Education is vital, and so being involved in something that will teach them skills about their future roles is fundamental. Practicing leadership skills at an early stage is beneficial to their understanding of how things will be in the future, how to get problems solved and things accomplished.
I recently was involved in a youth-led program developed and funded by the government called REACT (Resist, Expose, and Challenge Tobacco). This youth advocacy group helped me develop skills I will use throughout my life and gave me the experience of working in a professional environment. It was no ordinary teen job! It was interactive with the community and leaders of our area. This youth engagement program promoted a healthier population and, most importantly, was enjoyable and memorable.
In my experiences, youth had a large impact when tackling issues related to awareness and prevention. We took part in events and hosted many of our own in order to get the attention of the public to make a change for what we believed in.
I believe that all youth should have this opportunity in their community as it is a rewarding experience that they will take with them throughout their lives. It will assist them in their future careers and aspirations. Being involved in this type of program exposes youth to the ‘adult world’ and gives them confidence when they are accepted as a part of the adult community. When adults take into consideration a teen’s perspective, this makes youth feel accepted and gives them the courage to follow through with their ideas and suggestions to build a better society.
Pushing for more youth engagement in society is a great way to accomplish impactful things. The more prominent youth engagement is in a community, the more confidence youth gain and this helps them to grow and mature into young adults. Youth engagement is an investment for the future.
Some ways youth can get involved:
- Join any youth advocacy groups in your area which interest you (such as an anti-bullying or anti-tobacco industry group)
- Local politicians may have spots open for youth representatives such as a Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee (check your local City Hall).
- Look for opportunities for global citizenship/leadership such as Free the Children (Me to We) and local YMCA camp leadership courses
Some ways adults can help youth feel more involved:
- Learn their names, and acknowledge them day to day.
- Be enthusiastic about issues they are passionate about, and talk openly with them.
- Ask their opinion and give them your undivided attention.
- Become their advocate and find ways to involve youth in any program planning you may undertake.