Youth and Adult Partnerships in Extension
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At the end of July, a group of the Empowering Youth and Families Program Assistants from across the state met on the NC State University campus for a series of workshops and training opportunities.
Dr. Sarah Kotzian, Youth and Adult Citizenship and Engagement Specialist at NC State University, tag teamed with one of her youth participants and gave a wonderful presentation on youth and adult partnerships in the Cooperative Extension world and why they are important. You might be thinking “well, you’re a 4-H program so you should know this, right?” To be honest, that was my first reaction to the presentation too. However, it was eye opening because it allowed me to see the youth participants in our program as more than someone who simply offers suggestions.
As adults, it’s easy for us to dominate a conversation — especially during planning or brainstorming activities. We get impatient and think we know more about what they need than they do. This process of including the youth and counting them as an equal partner is crucial when working on program elements like our outreach events. If we want more youth involvement, we need to give space that allows them to use their head, heart, hands and health for the good of their community. Who knows how to reach the youth better than the youth in our county?
Youth involved in respectful relationships with trusted adults have been shown to improve skills and competencies while decreasing participation in risky behaviors. This is everything we strive for in the Empowering Youth and Families Program. Although it’s not always easy or comfortable at first, youth and adult partnerships can strengthen existing programs and increase positive youth development outcomes. Let’s take advantage of the wonderful resources sitting right in front of us!