We hear it all the time, the youth are our future. But did you ever wonder, how do they feel about where they currently stand in their home areas?
A late 2018 study done by Search Institute shows that 48% of youth feel they do not see themselves having a future in their communities, and only 23% feel confident that they have strong relationships with adult peers. Ouch!
A load of pressure then falls on our shoulders. How can we be proactive in supporting youth into the transition of adulthood and make them feel valued and grounded in the communities so precious to us?
Positive relationships between youth and adults give youth the validation they need to feel valued in their communities. Youth-Adult Partnerships (YAPs) are relationships in with professional adults work collaboratively with youth in the workforce. With these partnerships, youth learn important decision making skills, have the opportunity to network with other professionals in their field of choice, develop a sense of identity, and have the opportunity to become more grounded in their community.
Speaking from experience
The Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority (CCCRA) has brought youth into consideration for many trail projects, and you can too! These partnerships can be both easy and complex, depending on your needs. For example: Youth at a local vocational school have built the benches and picnic tables that are placed on the trails of Cambria County, and middle schoolers have painted murals to be hung along the Ghost Town Trail. When students at these schools complete projects to be displayed on the rail trails, they have a sense of connection to the community. Connection, feeling grounded in the community, advocacy and pride for our local community, do you see where we’re going here?
Other partnerships CCCRA has established with youth include the hiring of graphic design students rather than professionals for design work, working with interns on special projects over the summer, and guiding Eagle Scouts through the completion of bigger projects along the trail. The two most recent projects completed by Eagle Scouts along the Ghost Town Trail were the replacement of two old bridges along the C&I Extension of the Ghost Town Trail.
Keep in mind that these partnerships are only successful when the youth have just as much say in the decisions for the project, making them feel recognized and valued. We as adults have the opportunity to foster the youth of tomorrow, all the while learning the needs of our younger generations.
Invest in our youth, invest in our future. And have a little fun along the way!