People often think that teens should have no say in today’s events. Older generations believe they are too young to speak their minds. But we believe otherwise. Whether you like it or not, today’s youth will be the future’s adults. If we want better adults in the future, we should teach the youth to be better while they’re young. That’s where youth community engagement comes in.
Youth community engagement is the meaningful participation of a member of the youth in an activity focused outside of themselves. This could be activities held in their town, neighborhood, or school. It can come in the form of volunteerism, governance, political engagement, media, or research, to name a few. There are plenty of ways the youth can engage with their community. And it not only benefits them but the overall positive development of our communities.
Studies have shown that teens who engage with their communities gain leadership skills, become more socially aware, show better problem-solving and decision-making skills. They also become empowered and find a sense of belonging and purpose in society. Research has also shown that youth who engage with their communities are less likely to be involved in criminal behavior. They perform better in their academics, show lower rates of pregnancy and drug use, and are better prepared for the workforce.
This is why more schools should push their students to engage with their communities. However ideal the benefits are, getting students to engage with their communities is more challenging than most people think. Not all students care about their communities. And that’s what we want to change. If you’re going to enhance youth community engagement in your school, here are five ways you can do so:
Connect it to their curriculum.
Although we like to say that we learn real-world experiences outside of the classroom, we can still find a way to integrate real-world experiences into our curriculum. A great way to do so is to focus more on project-based learning. Having the students create a required graded project where they have to focus on a topic related to community engagement. If you need ideas on what kind of issues to focus on, you can base it on one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Establish a club or school organization.
Besides making it a part of the students’ curriculum, why not establish a club or school organization dedicated to youth community engagement. The members of this organization can participate in volunteer work or create their own programs for youth engagement. All while encouraging other students to take part in it too. Part of the programs that they can hold is youth-related talks or training. Take Young Invincibles, for example.
Hold a public community event at school.
Another way to get students to engage with their community is by holding a public event at school. Besides allowing the students to participate, people who are part of the community who aren’t students can also participate in the program. This may include their families, their neighbors, anyone who is part of their community.
Turn it into an incentive program.
Sometimes you have to give an incentive or a reward to get students convinced to participate in a program. Why not turn youth engagement activities into an incentive program. For example, every time a student completes a youth engagement activity, whether it be a talk, volunteer service, or a charity event. They are rewarded with challenge coins for each activity. Each coin can be treated as a badge and could even be translated into their grades or considered extracurricular activities. The one with the most coins could also be awarded for their character during their graduation. It’ll be an excellent addition to their resumes for when they go to college.
Create a safe community space.
Why not allow the school to sponsor the creation of a community space. It could be a public park, a public library, or a community garden. A place where every member of the community can gather and enjoy. You could also include it as part of the students’ extracurricular activities. If they volunteer to work at these spaces during the weekends or after school, they can get an incentive for it.
It’s clear to see that youth community engagement not only benefits the youth. But the entire community itself. Suppose we can get more youth to engage with community work; the better for the community and their future. So if you want to find a way to get more of the youth to engage with their community, make sure to try these suggestions.