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Connect with Youth: A Primer

This post is a primer;  a beginning… a launch… maybe even a tease.  But it is the start of an exploration on engaging youth.  I have long believed and said that “Youth are not the future.  They are the present molding the future.”  This post is the beginning of exploring how we engage the future, through youth.

I am a Master Facilitator for The Virtues Project™The Project and its truly global mission and recognition has been a passion of mine for 13 years now, and even before I knew of it.  Twin passions have followed me through life…. the concept of virtue and character… and the notion of real unity in diversity.  While never perfect and always the student, I have found these twin passions have wrapped themselves around my childhood games and adult career alike.

The Virtues Project did not discover the virtues.  They are ancient and imperishable.  What it did do was identify 5 Strategies for fostering cultures of character.  Starting today, I will be exploring through blog posts… how these strategies might be used in effectively engaging youth.  Over these next few posts, I will be citing some interesting facts around youth engagement.  For now, suffice it to say that, depending on source, some 80-90% of organizations are finding it challenging to attract and retain (and engage) youth.  Maybe you are experiencing the same.

As an educator for over 20 years, this is core to our work and my passion.   So, to start, let’s briefly name and draw out some thoughts on each of the 5 Strategies.  From The Virtues Project itself, they are…

Speak the Language

Language has the power to discourage or to inspire. Using virtues to cknowledge, guide, correct and thank awakens the best within us.  In our engagement with youth, “good and bad” are generic and vague concepts.  Virtues are not.  They are nuanced and focused.  Indeed, even when a virtue is named but not understood by the receiver… it is a perfect opportunity for the second strategy.  For now, understand the importance of the more targeted power of identifying, encouraging and calling upon virtues as strengths of character.  Behaviour arises from character.  Character is the soil from which behaviour grows.  Paying attention to the needs of the soil, effectively grows behaviour.

Recognize Teachable Moments

Recognizing the virtues needed in daily challenges helps us to become lifelong learners open to the lessons of character.  Teachable moments is not a new concept, but here we speak of it around the application (or lack thereof) of the virtues.   In evaluations, if we were to start at strengths and challenges at the level of character, we are digging deeper.  Recognizing moments of character is more resonant, and we will explore this is future posts.

Set Clear Boundaries

Boundaries based on respect and restorative justice create a climate of peace, cooperation, and safety in our homes, schools and communities.  Ultimately, this is about identity.  Identifying our lines in the sand is a process of exploring our most cherished identity.  Having conversations around this, at the level of character, gets us connected in stronger ways.  Again, we will explore this in upcoming posts.

Honor the Spirit

We sustain our vision and purpose by integrating virtues into our activities, surroundings, celebrations and the arts.  This one is about honor and respect and engagement.  It is about honoring our own spirit, honoring that of others… and honoring the collective spirit.  This one builds powerful bridges; with more to follow.

Offer Companioning

Being deeply present and listening with compassionate curiosity guides others to find clarity and to create their own solutions. It supports healing and growth.  Companioning is about being present and listening.  Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  This one fosters connection, engagement and leadership… and we will explore it.

For now, ponder these strategies.  Think in terms of your own experience, and how they might apply.  I am looking forward to this next series of posts.  If engaging youth is vital and a challenge for you, please engage us here.

Peace, passion and prosperity.

Barry Lewis Green, aka The Unity Guy™

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