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March 18, 2021

Some students walk into your program on the first day as natural leaders. Others have no vision of themselves in a leadership role. Leadership might be a concept that we hesitate to apply to young people, out of our desire to let them “come into their own.” But leadership comes in many shapes and sizes, and your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place to help all students explore and develop leadership skills. Nothing provides a greater sense of connection to the world around us than that vested feeling of active leadership.

The Texas State Safety Center offers a concise list of research-based benefits from youth leadership:

  • Leadership skills, such as personal goal-setting, problem-solving and sound decision-making
  • Improved ability to solve community problems and enhance civic participation 
  • Formation of higher career aspirations, increased self-esteem, and improved high school completion rates
  • Direct benefits to communities and organizations through a greater understanding of the problems facing other youth, and fresh perspectives on how to address these problems
  • Positive impact on adults by counteracting negative stereotypes of youth when they are successfully engaged in leadership within their communities. 

Y4Y offers a number of resources to help you guide the teens in your program to leadership roles. There are many sides to this conversation, so referencing the tools in several different Y4Y courses will arm you with a comprehensive approach.

  1. What do your students enjoy, what’s their comfort level, and what are they good at? Y4Y’s new Student Voice and Choice course offers tools such as Student Goal Setting and Reflection and SMART Goal Starter for Students. When your students better understand themselves and what they want out of your program and their lives, you can collectively find the right brand of leadership for them.
  2. What’s fair to expect? Tools in the Civic Learning and Engagement course can acquaint you with Youth Development Stages and Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints to lay the groundwork for mutually agreed upon, age-appropriate expectations as you ask students to navigate new leadership roles.
  3. What does youth leadership look like? The new Y4Y Click & Go on Recruiting and Retaining High School Students emphasizes the importance of youth leadership to the overall success of your teen program. Check out the tools on Youth Leadership Roles and the Youth Ambassador Job Description Template to dive into a framework for youth leadership in your program.
  4. What will youth actually lead? Great question! If you have non-STEM-based collaborative academic enrichment projects in mind, you can turn to the Group Roles, Youth Participation Checklist, Planner for Brainstorming and Project Planner tools, all in the Project-Based Learning course. Looking to develop student leadership skills through STEM projects and activities? Check out the new Y4Y STEAM course and related tools like the STEAM Student Self-Monitoring Checklist for Project Work, Design Thinking Task Tracker for Students and Selecting Student Roles for Group Work. Each student can play to their strengths and lead their own learning, regardless of their assigned role on a project team! Of course, if you’re looking to take that sense of community beyond the “four walls” of your program into the larger community, revisit tools in the Y4Y Civic Learning and Engagement course, like Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics and Investigating Issues in Your Community to get student leadership on the right path to community project success.

A noted American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Adopting this guiding philosophy on the power that your students can have in their own lives and the lives of others will grow leadership in each of them. Not only will your students and your program benefit, but the ever-shrinking globe will gain the leaders of tomorrow it so desperately needs.

 


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