One of the most important things you can do to engage young people in your programs is to make sure their voices are valued. Some teenagers have expressed frustration at how the adults in their lives may undercut their ideas about their future and the direction they want to take with their lives, expressing a desire to be taken seriously and for their contributions to be acknowledged so that they can grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow. Incorporating youth voices is important because they feel heard and that their contributions matter, which makes them more likely to engage in team-building activities. Rather than dictating what youth should do, adults can play a supporting role in youth-directed projects and activities.
Adults can encourage youth by asking them what changes they want to see and supporting projects or initiatives that they believe will help their communities. Making connections among a group of like-minded youth can also encourage feelings of camaraderie and help them build relationships with each other as they work towards achieving their shared goals. Moreover, adults can play more of a mentorship role where they guide youth rather than telling them what to do.
Young people are full of agency and thoughtful about their future and deeply concerned about the social issues affecting the world around them. Encouraging them to speak on the issues that matter to them also helps them cultivate leadership and build resilience. It can also be empowering for youth-led projects to recognize their voice has power and that they can enact change in the world. Having educational programs tap their potential and engaging with the interests that affect them is a good way to capture their attention and help them grow as individuals into well-rounded adults in the future.