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Principles for Youth Engagement

Why Engage Youth?

According to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, effective youth-adult partnerships based in authentic youth engagement provide many benefits for young people:

  • Offer opportunities to practice the problem-solving skills they will need in adulthood and strengthen the parts of the brain that drive those skills;
  • Build self-esteem and leadership skills; and
  • Increase their influence and personal stake in the community.

The Forum for Youth Investment, a national organization that focuses on getting young people ready for life, also strongly advocates for youth engagement in policies and programs.  At the meeting, Thaddeus Ferber shared the Forum’s philosophy for why to engage youth in leadership activities, namely:

  • Youth engagement can change the direction of a young person’s life;
  • Youth engagement will prepare young people to become future leaders;
  • Youth engagement is a young person’s civil right; and
  • Youth engagement allows youth to make a difference in improving their school and community.

Guiding Principles for Youth Engagement

Engaging young people in a meaningful way takes thoughtful planning.

For 14 years, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative led many successful efforts to engage young people throughout the nation.  They distilled this wealth of knowledge into three key principles:

  • Preparation. Young people need to be effectively prepared and empowered to make informed decisions about matters that affect their lives;
  • Support. Young people should have customized services and a network of supportive relationships that meet their needs and promote a healthy transition to adulthood; and
  • Opportunity. Young people should be provided with an array of life opportunities that promote optimal growth and development. These include experiential learning; healthy risk-taking; and participation in normal everyday activities that contribute to social confidence and positive identity formation.

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Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on March 7, 2018