Civic Minded Youth

The kids at my school are little activists.’  New research by the Girl Scouts Research Institute supports tendencies among today’s youth towards getting involved.’  Click through to read about the particular initiatives I’ve seen and more about this study.

Around our community students have been finding ways to help the environment and reach out to less fortunate communities.

Four eighth graders got the whole school thinking about our energy consumption as part of the Green Cup Challenge.’  The spoke to their peers, to the younger children, and to the adults in our community, asking each to remember to turn off lights anywhere they aren’t being used around our campus.’  They even worked with the maintenance staff to remove one third of the light bulbs in light fixtures in several campus buildings.’  Thanks to their efforts our school-wide consumption of electricity was reduced.

When we heard about the earthquake in Haiti, the kids wanted to help.’  One sixth grader has been holding a bake sale.’  Nut free treats every Monday, proceeds donated to help Haiti.’  A third grade girl started a fund drive. She emailed the Lower School Head asking, “How can we help?”‘  They set up a jar for money to be collected.’  One boy donated fifteen dollars of his own money.’  The counted up the totals and donated it to UNICEF.

And it’s not just the kids I know. I also saw a story in the Boston Globe about an eleven year old girl in Hull, MA who staged an all day read-a-thon of the first Harry Potter book to raise money for her local library. Go, go, Gryffindor, indeed.

A recent study by the Girl Scouts Research Institute and Harris Interactive confirms that these are not isolated stories, young people today are “civic minded” and value “community involvement,” more so than youth did twenty years ago.’  They also value diversity and acceptance more than ever.’  Students from third to twelfth grade, both girls and boys, were polled.’  You can download a PDF of the full study, or read abstracts here.

A few quotes that stood out to me:

“Today’s youth also highly value civic and community engagement, but previous research from the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that they often do not feel they have the places and opportunities to fulfill this desire. Youth are most interested in engaging at the community level, so try to connect what is going on locally with their interests and skills.” As the hub of the community, the library can be a place to encourage teen community involvement.’  Librarians can help connect teens to opportunities to help.

“Give them [teens] the opportunity to do so by asking questions about their lives and engaging them on issues that matter to them.” Librarians already do this by having Teen Advisory Boards, asking teens to contribute booktalks or make booktrailers, helping teens use media to express themselves, by getting feedback about library programs, or simply by being good listeners.

Kids and teens want to make a difference.’  We are in a position to help them do that. According to this study, the role of the caring adult is the most important in helping teens go from ideas to actions.’  On the study’s site there is also a PDF you can download called “Tips for Parents.”‘  These are relevant ways that any caring adult can support the teens in his or her community.

Are the young adults in your community helping out?’  How will you support them?

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks. This was really interesting. There have been a few teen suicides in my area lately, which is a fairly small town. We were discussing a the library why this was happening. It seems to me that bullying has always been a problem in schools. So what is different? Probably family life, school administration, etc., may be part of the difference.

    However, one person mentioned that she’d spoken to a teen who said she didn’t want to grow up because the world was so bad and getting worse. I think this is a major problem with today’s kids. They have so much access to world problems and feel a weight of responsibility and burden. Whether it’s warfare, ecological, social problems, politics–all of these are constantly being bombarded on society. Are kids prepared to face this and is it even healthy for them to be so exposed to world problems? So many problems and so little that they can do to help.

    However, I think that giving kids ways to give back to their world could be a great way of helping them deal with this burden that they may not be prepared to deal with. So civic-minded youth is a great idea.

    Just a few random thoughts that your article helped spark…

  2. I’m sorry to hear about the suicides in your community. I just read about a teen suicide that happened near me. It’s terrible.

    I agree that teens today hear a lot about how bad things are in the world. I wonder if that is a contributing factor to why, according this study, so many young people want to do something about it. I think it probably is.

    There are a lot of problems and it can seem like there isn’t much that anyone can do. But the study did say the best place to engage teens is on the community level- like my students did with lowering the school’s electricity consumption. Maybe that’s the best place for us to help out as well- with the things we see and the teens we see.

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