The conventional wisdom in a society is that we want to prevent young people from engaging in destructive lifestyles like drug use, delinquency, violence and school failure however we want them to graduate and get a job. While these are desirable by making it become the principle goals so as to establish our young people, we are essentially promoting them short. We need to additionally assist the youth in making a positive transition into adulthood, with the desired outcome of being a healthy, happy, productive adult who is capable of making contributions to their own development, their family’s development, and their community’s development by promoting them in knowledge, skills, behavior and personal attributes for healthy and successful life.
It requires that young people be actively engaged in the process by developing their own identity, self-worth, independence, sense of belonging, and connections to family, community. It will also develop their capacity to engage in life-¬long learning in order to contribute to family, community, and society, as well as to demonstrate competence in vocational choices.
The primary responsibility for a youth’s development lies with the parents. However, there are far too many youth who have parents who are not capable of providing positive assistance, parents who are distracted by working and/or trying to survive, or the youth do not have any parents.
With a view that one is “making it” and will succeed in the future, that one values and is valued by others in the family and in the community and that one has some control over daily events and is accountable for one’s own actions and for the consequences on others and also that one is unique and is intimately attached to extended families, cultural groups, communities, higher deities and principles, young people demonstrate a positive identity when they have a sense of personal well-being and a sense of connection and commitment to others with a consciousness that one is safe in the world and that daily events are somewhat predicable and that one is a “good person” who contributes to self and others.
Young people demonstrate ability when they gain knowledge, skills and attitudes that prepare them for adulthood. They will acquire the ability and motivation to act in ways that best ensure current and future physical health for self and for others and motivation to respond positively to and cope with positive and adverse situations, to reflect on one’s emotions and surroundings, and to engage in leisure and fun. They will find the ability and motivation to learn in school and other settings, to gain the basic knowledge needed to graduate high school, to use critical thinking, to be creative, to use problem solving and expressive skills, and to conduct independent study and the ability to gain the functional and organizational skills necessary for employment, including an understanding of careers and options, and the steps necessary to reach goals. They will also obtain the ability and motivation to work collaboratively with others for the larger good and to sustain caring friendships and relationships with others and a motivation to respect and affirmatively respond to differences among groups and individuals of diverse backgrounds, interests and traditions.
How can we be sure that the youth are gaining the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities? We must create the opportunities for the youth to acquire these things and provide the supports that will facilitate the youth taking full advantage of the opportunities. The opportunities are the chances for young people to learn how to act in the world around them, the chance to explore, express, earn, belong, and influence. Opportunities are things done by the young person. Supports are the relationships and accessible resources, people and information that allow a young person to take full advantage of existing services and opportunities. Supports are things done with the young person. When we provide opportunities for young people to work in partnership with adults to change negative factors within our communities, this becomes a perfect set of circumstances for the youth to gain their developmental skills, knowledge, and abilities.
Youth are a tremendous resource that are often overlooked or underutilized. Young people should be involved in community development because they live in and belong to their community. If young people are not connected and respected, they have the power to destroy the commu¬nity. Involving young people in the development of their communities encourages them to become stakeholders in their communities and to care about them. Thus young people acquire and re-discover talents, skills, knowledge, and understanding which enable them to take on new roles and responsibilities. This contributes to life-long learning by creating opportunities for reflection and evaluation of experience allowing knowledge to be shared through critical dialogue and building confidence amongst people.