Laura is a fellow-educator, mother to two passionate children and tireless leader in our community. I'm honored that she agreed to review this book for us all!
Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things
Written by Kelly Curtis, M.S.
Written by Kelly Curtis, M.S.
Review by Laura Smith, Community Coordinator, Snoqualmie Valley Community Network
Many people have said “It takes a village to raise a child”. Since I believe whole-heartedly in this concept, I was thrilled to be part of giving the youth in our small community a voice by developing a youth led, adult supported youth council. It all seemed easy enough since I have a background in education, have worked with this age group in various ways, and even have a little bit of funding to work with to get the group up on its feet. However, once the youth council had a few meetings under its belt, it quickly became clear to me that I needed more guidance than what tends to come to me intuitively. That’s when I purchased Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things.
The book itself is a succinct, easy to read guide that suggests very practical hands-on tips for cultivating the best in young people. The book supports the Developmental Assets approach that has been working its way into communities and schools over the last decade or so. After only reading a few pages, I decided the book is a resource that needed to be given to each of the adult mentors for the newly formed youth council. I was finding that all adults (myself included) involved with the group are well meaning, but that we definitely have a tendency to try to take over (we like to call it guide or prompt) conversations. It is my hope that the book will provide reinforcement to the “youth led, adult supported” concept that we are trying to achieve.
Currently, the adult members of the council are reading the book. Next month, we will be holding a book discussion while the youth hold the youth council meeting. The content of the book has already given focus to me as the main coordinator, and I feel positive that the other adult mentors will appreciate the insights and ideas provided.
As an adult who works to give youth a voice, I learned a great deal from the first two chapters in the book that focus on what a community that values youth really looks like and the ways that the youth in a community can be treated a valued resources. One point that really struck home is that often youth are included in committees or on councils as “token” participants without their voice or opinion being held in high (or at least equal) regard. As I explore our community for opportunities to hook youth in, I am cautious to make sure their participation is valued. The book is full of activities and checklists for youth, adults, or both to use to take a closer look at many areas including how youth are valued in the community, how youth see their community, and how youth can become solid partners in the community.
The last couple of chapters explore serving the needs of others and creating a safe world for young people. Although the youth council isn’t to this point just yet, Empowering Youth discusses the benefits of such service and provides tips and tools for getting a project or event started. I especially appreciate the focus on how service project participants learn about themselves while learning about citizenship, community development, social change, and the interconnectedness of people.
As a parent, this book is a reminder that there are little things that we do (and can often do more of) each and every day to empower our children. Today, I will try my best to be an active listener when my kids hop in the car after school. I will remind them that they are valuable assets in our family and maybe someday when they are old enough, they will choose to join the youth council to share their voices and skills with others in our community.
What do YOU do to empower the children in your life? Leave a comment!
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