The power of youth voice

Article written by Vickie LeFlore, Positive Youth Development Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Youth-adult partnerships are joint efforts that allow youth and adults to work toward common interests and goals. These ventures are mutually beneficial and impactful when they bloom from trust and authenticity.

It is imperative that adults see young people as a resource for solutions. Youth can provide fresh insight and energy while adults can offer a great amount of experience and knowledge to leverage real community change.

These types of partnerships require intentionality; adults must be open and willing to some degree to relinquish or extend power to youth. This builds a foundation for young people to be engaged.

When youth and adults work collaboratively, greatness can be accomplished in cultivating important issues and concerns that affect the community at large.

Youth engagement positions youth to use their platform to empower and inspire their peers in working toward change. In addition, they are a great opportunity for generational inclusion.

Establishing trust

One of the most important guiding principles to make youth-adult partnerships work is establishing trust. In these types of partnership, youth must have an equal voice and share in the decision-making and power of the partnership.

Building character is a powerful outcome for youth-adult partnerships. When youth work alongside adults they experience an increase in the development of a healthy identity and sense of self.

When youth are purposefully engaged, they increase their skill development. This allows them to take ownership and responsibility for the decisions they make.

Adults benefit from youth engagement and their perspectives on issues within youth-adult partnerships.

Also, adults can serve in mentoring roles, guiding and educating youth through the partnership processes. This allows adults to scaffold processes and projects to help youth gain a better understanding of serving in their particular roles whether it be on a committee or board.

Youth programs

Kenosha County programs like Youth As Resources and Youth In Governance operate under the auspice of youth and adults working together to champion change and impacting the community.

The Youth In Governance program allows youth to engage in discussion at the county level.

Youth As Resources youth make funding decisions for grant approvals for community-based service projects led by other youth.

Building youth-adult partnerships takes time. Youth-adult partnerships provide a positive opportunity for youth to push the needle and move strategically to promote change. Adults who nurture youth-adult collaborations play a major part in fostering a successful future generation.

Youth-adult partnerships can be a major motivational factor. Research has proven that “high-quality, youth-adult partnerships benefit youth, staff, organizations, and communities” (UW-Madison Division of Extension, 2015).

To find out more about programs through Extension Kenosha County and various opportunities, browse our website at https://kenosha.extension.wisc.edu/youth-development/.
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