A striking difference between effective and not so effective organizations that serve youth has to do with their conceptions of youth. The majority of youth-serving programs view youth as a problem to try and fix, remedy, control, or prevent some sort of behavior. From an adolescent perspective, this single-focused, problem-based program strategy fails on two counts. First, it is too simple. The needs or problems of teens today can rarely, if ever, be circumscribed by a single-issue effort. Teen pregnancy, drug use, criminal activity, and school failure have multiple roots and require inclusive responses. Second, such “lack of” programs too often only reinforce youth’s view that something is wrong with them, that they are somehow deficient, and that they are a problem. It is not surprising that youth do not elect to participate in such organizations or activities to a significant extent. The youth organizations that attracted and sustained young people’s involvement give a visible and ongoing voice to a conception of adolescents as a resource to be developed and as persons of value to themselves and to society.
Does your ministry see adolescents as a problem to be fixed or, do they see our students as an asset to our community?