Strong, healthy communities are characterized by active citizen participation and close ties among youths, parents and seniors, schools, governments, community organizations, workplaces and social institutions. Young people who are involved in their community in meaningful ways are more likely to learn the skills they need to be fully contributing members of the community in adult life.

Social and civic competency are learned in the home, the school and the broader community. Partnerships among schools, community agencies, businesses and parents are increasingly seen as the most effective way to help young people learn the civic skills they need for adulthood. Media portrayal of sexism, racism and violence as an acceptable way to solve problems may also influence young people.

High levels of anonymity, alienation, boredom and community disorganization promote personal despair and increased involvement by youth in drug abuse and crime. The most effective way to prevent and reduce youth crime is to address the underlying factors that influence delinquency — these include family violence, poverty, difficulties in school and high rates of youth unemployment. (184)

Unemployment and a lack of meaningful activity can also make young people feel alienated. High school or even university or college graduation is no longer a guarantee of a satisfying career.

Being a "dropout", however, is far from synonymous with alienation and rebellion. Most school dropouts are well-integrated into the dominant value system. Like high school graduates, dropouts believe in education and most plan to go back to school. They want interesting jobs, and would like to marry and start families. (291)

Yet dropping out is a serious social problem, not because dropouts are a threat to society, but because of the damage they do to themselves. Since children from low income families are more likely to drop out, their marginalization as a disadvantaged underclass tends to represent a continuing pattern of social inequity.

The increase in the number of street/homeless youth in Canadian communities is particularly troubling. During the past decade, young people have become the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, with street youth accounting for a significant portion of the group.

Communities that care about young people will make every effort to break these patterns of inequity and to narrow the gap in disparities among their citizens.

Community-based programs offer young people an opportunity to gain a sense of belonging and involvement in the life of the community and to acquire a sense of competence and usefulness to others. They help young people learn the leadership, teamwork and organizational skills they require to successfully bridge the transition to adulthood. (272) Community-service activities (voluntary work) have the potential to encourage youth to become more responsive and productive as adults. Their participation in voluntary activities helps them to learn positive skills and may also increase the community’s respect for young people.

Mentoring is also an effective way to help young people learn civic skills. Youth who have opportunities for mentoring relationships with older peers and with adults (including relatives, teachers, faith leader, recreation workers and others) exhibit more positive social relationships and behaviours than those who do not. (93)

Communities who foster the civic participation of young people on city councils and advisory groups help them learn about and participate in active democracy.

Supporting and encouraging young people’s spiritual development is also important. Many of the things adolescents seek to understand — the search for identity and a place in the world, a sense of belonging with others and connecting with the natural world — are, in essence, spiritual issues. When the development of spiritual well-being is encouraged and supported by parents, families, schools, peers and faith communities, young people learn to see the world through compassionate eyes. (277)

Remote, isolated communities and high density urban housing areas face special challenges in nurturing children and youth. Sometimes, the whole community needs to engage in a healing process that involves young people as important contributors to the process.

Key factors influences on the positive outcome: Prepared to participate in community life

 
Opportunities to make a meaningful contribution
 

Opportunities to learn life skills, respect for others and civic skills

Note: These influences are also listed in the drop-down list above. Please use this menu to navigate within this page.


Opportunities to make a meaningful contribution


 

  • Encourage young people to join activities at school and in the community, including voluntary service and community events.

  • Encourage youth to take on leadership roles and to work with others in community organizations, faith congregations, etc.

  • Support and encourage young people’s desire to take action on meaningful causes. While not all young people are activists, many feel strongly about causes such as protecting the environment or human and citizen rights. Idealism, compassion and pursuit of the common good are worthwhile values that deserve support and make society a better place in which to live.

  • Support charities and do volunteer work yourself. Talk with young people about why you do it.

  • Provide opportunities for students to take leadership roles and to make meaningful decisions about activities and policies in the school.

  • Collaborate with community agencies to make voluntary service part of school assignments or projects.

  • Train peer mentors and leaders to help other young people. The School-Wide Peer Helping Program at Runneymede Collegiate Institute in Toronto provides one example of an excellent peer helping program. See the Peer Helping Annotated and Indexed Bibliography for further information.


 

  • Welcome youth in organized community events (for, festivals and cultural celebrations) and public places such as parks, gardens and sport facilities. Encourage them to get involved in decisions related to the creation of spaces for youth and in how public places will be run. In Surrey, British Columbia, young people helped to design Bear Creek Park and will be in charge of running it.

  • Include youth in political decision-making. This gives young people an opportunity to exercise their rights as community members and to make a meaningful contribution to their community. The City of Vancouver Civic Youth Strategy involves youths as active partners in the development and delivery of civic services that have a direct impact on young people.

  • Encourage youth voluntarism. Volunteering provides young people with a way to actively participate in community life and encourages the development of compassion and an ethic of service.

  • Provide training for peer leaders. See the Peer Helping Annotated and Indexed Bibliography for further information.

  • Recognize young people’s achievements and efforts in the community.

  • Employ young people.

 

  • Give young people summer jobs and part-time jobs and train them to make a meaningful contribution in the workplace.

  • Cooperate with community organizations and schools to support the meaningful participation of students in the workplace through volunteer programs or cooperative education.

  • Recognize young people’s achievements in the community.

  • Employ young people.


 

  • Actively involve youth in decisions, policies and programs that affect them; provide them with opportunities to develop leadership skills and take on leadership roles. Child Friendly Calgary’s Youth Volunteer Corps and Youth Advisory Committee to the Mayor gives young people a voice in civic affairs.

  • Support/fund coalition building among youth-serving agencies, schools and parent groups.

  • Put policies in place to address the underlying factors in youth delinquency — poverty, high rates of unemployment, etc.


Opportunities to learn life skills, respect for others and civic skills

  • Help children and youth learn lifeskills such as decision making, problem solving and how to deal with stress.

  • Model civic values: strive to be honest, compassionate, tolerant and respectful of others.

  • Encourage and support youth participation in sport and recreational activities (athletic and non-athletic), summer camps and after-school activities.

  • Provide opportunities for youth to interact with older relatives and elders.

  • Communicate your disapproval when media portray stereotypes and excessive violence. Praise media that show ethical solutions to problems that are relevant to young people.


  • Make learning life skills such as decision making, problem solving and conflict resolution part of the school curriculum or experience.

  • Provide in-school and after-school opportunities for youth to learn prosocial skills in activities that stress fun and a sense of belonging (athletic and nonathletic). Do not charge user fees.

  • Address racism, sexism and prejudice against religion and sexual preference. STAR (Students Against Racism) includes groups of students who assert that racism and prejudice are unacceptable in school.

  • Consider involving senior students in mediation and conflict resolution among younger students.

  • Maintain a positive peer culture that helps to prevent the formation of gangs and antisocial peer groups.

  • Ensure that teachers and coaches understand the importance of mentoring and encourage mentoring behaviours. See Understanding Mentoring Relationships for more information.

  • Provide media literacy programs that help young people learn to recognize and discount stereotyping of gender roles, gays, lesbians, ethnic minorities, older people and people with disabilities.


  • Support programs that bring young people and older citizens together.

  • Prevent youth homelessness. Most young people who live on the street are fleeing abusive, negligent or conflicted home situations. See Street/Homeless Youth for more information. Help keep youth off the street by providing local support and emergency accommodation for youth who leave home before they become entrenched in street life.

  • Provide young people who are living on the street with long-term accommodation options, health care and financial assistance to regain stability in their lives. Outreach programs that are culturally sensitive are essential for reaching young people who are unaware of services or face language or cultural barriers to accessing services that meet their needs. Interagency networks are increasingly recognized as the most effective and efficient way to address the complex issue of street youth homelessness. Saskatoon E’Gadz and the Ottawa Youth Service Bureau illustrate the successes and challenges of this type of approach.

  • Collaborate with workplaces and schools to set up mentoring programs. Encourage churches, faith communities and cultural organizations to set up mentoring programs with young people. See Understanding Mentoring Relationships for more information.

  • Take control of a troubled community and create an environment that nurtures children and young people. The Alexandra Parks Resident Association took control of their high crime, high drug-trade neighbourhood and turned it around.

  • Provide recreation and skill development programs (both athletic and non-athletic skills). These build prosocial behaviour and can help reduce antisocial behaviour in the community.

  • Employ young people.

  • Provide subsidies for youth who require financial support to participate in athletics and other recreational activities.

  • Welcome young people and involve them in meaningful activities. The Dufferin Mall is one example of how retail stores worked with the community to turn a troubling situation with youth into a positive one.

  • Work with communities, schools and governments to fund and support exemplary prevention programs.

  • Sponsor programs and summer camps that help young people learn life and civic skills.

  • Provide employment opportunities for young people.

  • Work with communities, schools and governments to fund and support exemplary community programs for youth.

  • Fund research on best practices and the dissemination of information about exemplary programs.

  • Provide subsidies to schools and communities to ensure that no young people are excluded from participating in athletics and other recreational activities because they do not have enough money.



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We are always on the lookout for specific strategies proven to be successful (or showing promise), that illustrate work done in this area. After reading this section of the site, click on the icon below and share your ideas.



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