Engaging youth in activities without mentioning a resume

Help guide youth to gain leadership and life skills by allowing them to make decisions, teach others and participate in fun activities and events.

Field trips can be a fun and exciting way to engage youth.

Field trips can be a fun and exciting way to engage youth.

As a former teacher, I remember hearing the statement numerous times offered as advice to students from adults: “This will look good on your resume.” With my new role as an Extension educator with Michigan State University Extension, I often wonder if this is sound advice. Should we, adults mentoring youth, encourage their participation in activities and leadership roles solely for the purpose of building a resume?

Although there are many reasons you choose to engage in different events, as adults we need to continue to promote the learning experiences. Building a resume seems very important to youth applying for college and then college students applying for jobs. Without a doubt, a resume is an important part of showcasing your career and ability to be productive in a new role, however, there still needs to be more than just extrinsic motivation for extra curricula participation.

The question then becomes: how do we motivate youth and young adults to engage and assume leadership roles? These three ideas may help youth engage in activities and step up on their own to leadership roles:

  1. Make it fun! Being involved with something doesn’t always need to be work. Remember, we are working with youth who have at least some interest in the content. Find ways to engage the youth in interactive, hands-on ways that may include non-traditional meetings or events. Field trips or changing the location of an event can make events more exciting for youth.
  2. Ask youth to teach something. Very rarely do we ask youth to do something directly. Making direct contact with someone and requesting them to do something specific for a set amount of time is a great way to engage youth. Start with an activity that is 10 minutes and this could even be practice for something they may exhibit at fair. Youth have so many different skills, let them illustrate them to you and other youth.
  3. Provide opportunities for youth to make decisions. Adults should help guide clubs and events, but don’t forget about who the event is for. Providing numerous ideas helps youth be aware of the choices and items they can participate in. Allowing those youth to directly make decisions and lead meetings or events on their own accord will enable them to build life skills. These life experiences will help enable youth to make more sound decisions and come to their own conclusions when ready. Don’t be afraid to push a little, but always have the best interest of the youth in mind.

Looking for other resources? Michigan State University Extension provides numerous resources including Animal Science Anywhere lessons, Be the “E” Entrepreneurship National 4-H Curriculum and Build Your Future: Choices, Connections, Careers that can help increase knowledge about projects, leadership and careers.

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