Benefits to youth in developing youth and adult partnerships

Examining the benefits youth gain when youth voice is utilized in decision making roles with adults.

Youth-adult partnership is a core practice in engaging youth in major decisions and collaborative action in programs, organizations and communities. The Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles emphasize youth and adult partnerships through the following principles:

  • The concepts that “youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.”
  • “Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.”

This is the last article in a series by Michigan State University Extension which considers the benefits of youth and adult partnerships from the perspective of how adults, youth and communities benefit from youth and adult partnerships. This article focuses on the benefits for youth, which include:

  • Development of life skills—leadership, planning and teamwork
  • Sense of belonging and pride
  • Commitment to community
  • Increased sense of civic awareness and responsibility
  • Capacity to care and a desire to change and improve the lives of others
  • Respect and acceptance from caring adults

Creating environments for youth to try, practice and facilitate leadership, and planning and teamwork is crucial for teens in their life skills development. Providing workshops or educational classes to learn about leadership is no longer enough. Creating environments where youth can practice what they have learned is the next step in their growth and development. What better way to do this then create an environment where they can gain this experience with the guidance of adults in a youth and adult partnership. When youth are asked to serve on community boards, committees or decision making bodies, they have the opportunity to develop the life skill of leadership with the guidance and experience of adults.

The MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development program in Lenawee County has created environments where youth are a part of all 4-H councils, boards and committees. The boards are designed for youth to not only serve on them, but to take leadership roles within the organization. Roles and responsibilities are shared and the youth have the opportunity to be mentored and guided by an adult. When the meeting is called to order, a youth is at the helm in that role. As the meeting conintues, a youth reads and records the minutes. When a treasurer’s report is given, a youth is explaining the most recent financial transactions. These roles are genuine ongoing responsibilities for youth, not simply arriving at the meeting and reporting out; the teens on these committees have ownership of the respective officer roles.

The leadership civic engagement work team of MSU Extension offers workshops on developing youth and adult partnerships and how to provide experiences for youth to play a meaningful role on a board, committee or council. Don’t just ask a youth to get involved, assign them important roles that are meaningful for the organization, and watch them increase their leadership in and ownership of the organization.

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