Youth leaders stole the show at the July 14 launch of the Healthy Youth/Healthy Regions study.
The 140 adults in the audience energetically leaned into their questions as they listened to the young people discuss the study findings, the strengths and accomplishments of youth in West Sacramento, Yuba City/Marysville and Sacramento, their own aspirations, and their challenge to adults to become true partners for community change.
The meeting illustrated that adults are hungry for authentic contact with youth and their ideas and that youth and adults can work as allies. It also shows what’s possible if adults flipped their perceptions of youth – from problem to problem solver; client to change-maker; recipient to co-participant; at-risk population to be dealt with to asset to be cultivated; tomorrow’s leaders to part of today’s leadership team; adult in the making to citizen today.
The Sactown Heroes are allies in the West Sacramento Youth Resource Coalition‘s community development vision: “the little Sacramento that works.” And, the youth leaders have proven that they are engaged, energized realistic, and practical through successful community development projects since 2006 on safety, parks planning, neighborhood access to fresh produce, and active healthy living.
The study offers excellent recommendations on how to create a path for continued youth participation that will help meet the region’s challenges.
“Aiming at a healthy future for the Capital Region, an effective coordinating body dedicated to improving the prospects for youth will convene BY placing youth at the center (not the margins) of regional improvement strategies TO ensure sufficient resources for long-range planning, action and evaluation.”
How do we keep this youth/adult interaction momentum going? It takes some intention – staying true to youth engagement principles – and a bit of adult humility. Youth development practitioners have coined the phrase “adult default.” It defines those moments when – despite our commitment to a youth/adult partnership to ensure a strong youth voice in lasting community change – adults flick off the listening mode, drop into high concept alphabet soup, and run away with the process.
We must strengthen genuine youth/adult partnerships by training adults on what it takes to generate, sustain and enjoy these relationships and the assets they bring to the region. Youth development in local communities opens up a new wave of alliances to improve how our regions function for all of our healthy futures.
Jim Rodgers is co-coordinator of the West Sacramento Youth Resource Coalition