Youth as Workers

When organizations, businesses, agencies, and other groups hire youth, they can be staff members in programs for adults, other youth, children, or for the community at large. Engaging youth as workers can be an empowering opportunity for them, and an enriching activity in the workplace.

To many a man, and sometimes to a youth, there comes the opportunity to choose between honorable competence and tainted wealth. The young man who starts out to be poor and honorable, holds in his hand one of the strongest elements of success. — Orison Swett Marden


Ways Young People Can Change the World as Workers

Business Owners — Youth can start and operate businesses of all kinds. Practical, positive and successful endeavors can teach youth countless skills, build communities through economic impacts and positive interactions, and other great outcomes.

Out of School Time Staff — When youth have opportunities to lead, teach, direct and partner with their peers and children, they can grow in the afternoons when school is out, on weekends, and over the summertime.

Youth as Program Directors — Leading youth programs requires a high degree of responsibility; the ability to learn from doing; and the desire to make a difference in the lives of other people. Youth as program directors can learn powerful skills while changing peoples’ lives.


Things Young People Need to Change the World as Workers

Inspiration — In a world that generally relies on youth being passive consumers of adult-made decisions, youth as paid staff sometimes require inspiration and motivation to get involved and sustain their efforts.

Opportunities — Once they’re inspired, youth need opportunities to take action! Creating workforce development opportunities, or career and technical education activities is essential, especially when focusing on youth engagement as the outcome.

Training — Rather than simply “throwing them into the fire”, employers need to train young people in how to become engaged in their workplace. Additionally, adults who work with youth need to learn how to engage youth, too.


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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in the workplace in your community or organization, contact us.


Special thanks to Edward DeJesus for his contributions to this page!



Youth as Mentors

Mentoring should be a non-hierarchical relationship between youth and adults, adults and youth, or among youth themselves, that helps facilitate learning and guidance for each participant. Roles for youth as mentors can position them as equitable partners with adults who work together to build skills, share knowledge and transform communities in mutually engaging, intentional relationships.


Ways Youth Can Change The World Through Mentoring

Youth Community Builders — Youth can mentor adults about all sorts of issues, including their culture, communities, education and more. In these relationships, adults are committed to learning from young people about issues, actions, ideas and wisdom that adults should know, and often do not know.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Focused on creating equitable relationships between young people and adults, youth/adult partnerships can happen in nonprofits, schools, government agencies and other places that want to promote youth engagement.

Family Settings — Acknowledging adults don’t know everything because of their ages or titles in life, mentorships at home can extend across family lines and home settings. Grandparents can learn from young people, parents can listen to their children for guidance, and families can reflect everyone’s priorities.


Things Youth Need to Change the World through Mentoring

Research — Youth can create their own mentoring approaches by researching community needs. Whether examining local media, conducting interviews with select groups of adults, or reviewing social media, youth can learn from research.

Training — Participating in learning activities with adults as co-learners can help establish the basis for youth mentoring programs by creating lasting activities, outcomes and attitudes.  Establishing common perspectives can challenge misconceptions and promote tighter connections between everyone involved in mentoring, too.

Motivation — After 5, 10 or 18 years of being young, sometimes youth can become disillusioned or disengaged from forming healthy relationships with adults. Motivation is a tool that can encourage everyone to re-engage, reconnect and reignite their spirit of community, democracy and social change, all of which can happen in mentoring.


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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in mentoring in your community or organization, contact us.

Youth Engagement for Youth as Decision-Makers

Through formal and informal decision-making, youth as decision-makers are engaged in making powerful, meaningful and substantive choices, decisions and determinations that affect themselves, their peers, their communities, and the world. A lot of youth-focused activities, organizations, and programs are run by adults. However, anytime adults are charged with managing programs for children or youth they must take steps to engage children and youth in organizational decision-making in new and different ways. Every time a program or the young participants change these ways must change, too. This is true in community organizations, schools, foundations, government agencies and religious organizations, as well as at home and throughout communities.

Too often we give young people answers to remember rather than problems to solve. — Roger Lewin


Ways Youth Engagement Happens through Decision-Making

Personal Decision-Making — No matter who they are, where they are or what they are doing, everyday everyone has decisions they can make for themselves. Youth engagement in personal decision-making happens all the time, choosing how to act, who to be around, and what to do. The question becomes whether young people are making decisions intentionally or by accident, coincidence, or otherwise.

Youth as Movement Leaders — Making decisions that create social change around the world, youth engagement is happening through movements for the environment, education, political reform, and many other issues. Engaging youth as movement leaders means positioning them with authority, purpose and ability.

Community Decision-Making — Youth can be engaged acting on behalf of their neighborhoods, cultural groups, friends, and others. Community decision-making opportunities can include engaging young people in neighborhood associations, on community boards, or through community building activities like graffiti art campaigns, service learning, or other opportunities.


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Tools for Youth Engagement through Decision-Making

Advocacy Opportunities — Purposefully engaging youth in advocacy opportunities is a tool for developing their decision-making skills and abilities because this gives them practical, applicable ways to see what their choices can lead towards and away from.

Training — Creating co-learning opportunities for youth and adults to work together and facilitating these with intention can lead to stronger knowledge and skills sets among everyone involved.

Stories — The inspiration to get engaged in making powerful, positive decisions can come to youth by reading, hearing and interacting with others’ stories. These stories can cross cultural, gender, socio-economic, identity and other boundaries and provide new insight to transform their own lives and the lives of people around them.


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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in decision-making in your community or organization, contact us.

Youth Engagement through Youth as Activity Leaders

Engaging youth as activity leaders in nonprofits, community organizations, and other areas includes young people facilitating, teaching, guiding, directing, and otherwise leading youth, adults, and children in a variety of ways.

Youth Can Be the Leaders of Tomorrow - If We Procrastinate.


Ways Youth Engagement Happens for Youth as Activity Leaders

Youth as Cultural Facilitators — Young people can do more than simply learn about culture. Instead, youth engagement can happen with youth as essential leaders, drivers and motivators of culture, heritage and history. A few activities they can lead include teaching native languages, being hired as historical tour guides, or facilitating workshops on youth culture.

Youth-Led Afterschool Spaces — Everyday, millions of children and youth are challenged to find meaningful, substantive activities in their out-of-school time. Whether through homework assistance, tutoring, community enrichment, or other activities, youth engagement can happen when young people drive and direct their own afterschool spaces.

Service Learning Programs — Learning through service can build youth engagement in powerful, positive, practical ways. Youth engagement can happen through identifying their genuine interests, building their skills and abilities to affect change, positioning youth as planners and researchers, and supporting them facilitating social change.


“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." - Albert Einstein


Tools to Build Youth Engagement for Youth as Activity Leaders

Training — Supporting youth engagement through deliberate skill-building and knowledge-sharing activities can help increase motivation, determination, impact and sustainability. Afterschool activities need increased capacities among everyone involved – youth too! 

Inspiration — It’s not enough to simply throw youth into afterschool activities and expect they will get engaged. Helping them identify their authentic interests can lead to inspiration, as well as meaningfully connecting with other youth and adult allies within and throughout their lives. Inspiration happens a lot of different ways.

Evaluation — Encouraging, allowing and empowering youth through constant reflection is essential to successful youth engagement. However, engaging young people in significant evaluation activities is key to sustaining successful engagement. Youth can be fully engaged and lead efforts focused on quantitative and qualitative assessments, data aggregation, and critical perspectives.


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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in leading activities in your community or organization, contact us.


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Youth as Policy-Makers

When they research, plan, write, and evaluate rules, regulations, laws, and other policies, engaging youth as policy-makers can enrich, substantiate, enliven, and impact the outcomes of policies in many ways.

Rather than standing or speaking for children, we need to stand with children speaking for themselves. We don’t need a political movement for children… We need to build environments and policies for our collective future. — Sandra Meucci


Ways Youth are Changing the World through Policy-Making

Youth On Boards — Youth engagement on boards should be identical to adults. There should be equal numbers of youth and adults on every board affecting young people and the larger communities they are part of. They should have full rights, including the abilities to raise issues, to vote, to hire and fire executives, to be responsible for finances, and all other duties of regular board members. Nonprofit organizations, international NGOs, municipal (village/town/city/county) boards, school boards, and other boards should all do this.

Youth Legislative Members — Participating as full members of democratically elected governance bodies, youth engagement should happen through governmental policy-making activities. Developing legislation, participating in relevant blocs, raising votes, voting on all topics, and otherwise fully belonging to any legislative body is what matters. This can include state or provincial bodies, and federal and international bodies.

Youth as Policy Committee Members — Youth should be engaged as full members of every committee that plans, creates, designates, researches, evaluates and otherwise implements policies of any kind in every environment around the world. They should be engaged in fully considering legal, social, economic, educational and every other aspect of policy-making, as well as the regulatory, political and cultural effects.


Things Youth Need to Change the World through Policy-Making

There are many different resources available to engage youth as policy-makers. While many are vital for success, many have not been created yet. Following are different types of tools youth need to become policy-makers.

Education — Youth need to learn what policy is, how it happens, where it occurs, who it affects and who affects it, and most importantly, why policy matters and what difference it can make.

Training — Once they are in a policy-making activity, youth need training about procedures, policies, and other activities that can affect them in these roles.

Credit — All policy-makers receiving credit for their roles, whether its nebulous and loose or identifiable and direct. Credit is a tool to encourage engagement, and is best doled out to everyone involved, including youth.


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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in policy-making in your community or organization, contact us.