The Youth Perspective
Many times, people look down on youth students and their ideas because they are “too young” or “not experienced enough.” This perspective has led to lost opportunities for many communities. Our youth are the leaders of tomorrow; their ideas will eventually shape what the world looks like around us. Because of this, it is important to help our youth develop the skills needed now so that they can become active participants and strong leaders in our society.
So, what does youth development look like? First, youth should be allowed to express their ideas and opinions freely. This helps them develop confidence as well as communication skills. Many times, students bring a unique perspective to the table which is an asset. Youth, even at the elementary level, see things that happen around them that adults sometimes don’t, or they see it in a different light allowing them to come up with alternative solutions. Currently, there are not very many opportunities for youth to have a voice for change. The accountability committee for the high school allows student representatives from each high school class, they have several responsibilities including giving input on the student handbook. The downfall of this is the meeting times are not compatible with the student’s sports or other extracurricular activities making it hard or sometimes even impossible for the student committee members to attend and offer their input. I was personally able to attend several of these meetings towards the end of my senior year and observed firsthand the lack of student input and how student input would be extremely beneficial.
Besides this, other opportunities could be made for students such as a spot to speak at city council meetings, writing in local newspapers, and availability to present ideas to the school board.
Another part of youth development is teaching students the importance of community service and paying it forward. Without youth volunteers, communities like ours would not look as clean, would not have as many problems being solved, and would not be as united. These things are what make our community unique. It is what makes our community feel like home. Not only does youth community service help our community, it also helps our students. Students who volunteer and participate in community service are more likely to succeed in the future. Not only do these acts of kindness look good on students’ college and job applications, they also help students develop real-life skills that are needed when they go off to college or join the workforce. Most years, the FFA chapter organizes “town trash pickups.” When I was in high school, I enjoyed participating in these because it was a time for me to hangout with my friends while also helping the community. Another unique community service done in recent years was the FBLA chapter’s Christmas decorating. Christmas is personally one of my favorite times of year, so I loved seeing all of the joy that this service brought to our community. There are many other community service projects that have been done by students that have helped develop our community. A few projects led by young people includes Jordan Barnett’s HomePlate Project, the help of students with the theater project, and the painting of the old pool building, just to name a few. One specific project I would like to point out is Mollie Kelley and Rhealie Rittgers Community Service Project for FBLA. One portion of their project was a partnered canned food drive with social services for the holiday season; their efforts contributed over 200 cans being donated to feed families in need.
Overall, youth students play a huge role in the success of our community. Their ideas and perspectives are fresh and unique and will shape the future of the world around us. Therefore, it is important to listen and support our youth. I have personally experienced the love our community has for the youth: from the fans at sporting events, to local businesses hiring students, to the community volunteers coaching rec sports, and much more. So, youth students, how are you going to make a difference in our community? And adults, how are you going to support these students in their efforts to change our world for the better?
Cover: Hadlie Rittgers