As we start out the new year, we are all about setting New Year’s resolutions and improving ourselves. I want to challenge you to make a resolution to help a youth this coming year.
I found a recent article that I read disturbing. It said that in Fairbanks — one of the coldest places in the U.S. — we had 239 runaways and 80 homeless youth in 2012 and 2013 (Fairbanks North Star Borough School District). That doesn’t even begin to account for those youth who are lacking in positive adult supervision. Stop and remember when you were a child and what it meant to have an adult spend quality time with you. I know some of my favorite times were working on the farm with my dad, going shopping with my mom or getting sporting tips from my coaches. One-on-one time meant the world to me.
So this year, as we start off and make our resolutions, I want to challenge adults or older teens to take on the role of a mentor to a teen or a younger youth. Now this doesn’t mean you have to take them in or smother them, because we all know that we don’t like that. What I want is for you to notice that teen or youth who needs a little positive adult attention or could use a hand up.
Now let’s run through a list on how to track our resolution on this commitment:
– Make your goals fit your time. We are all very busy so we may not have time to do something every week; however, can you make a phone call or text once a week and then do something with the youth once a month? Think about what kind of time you can commit and lay out your plan.
– Keep at it. You need to set the time aside and if something comes up and you need to change your schedule, then change it. Don’t give up that month — reschedule and make it happen.
– Plan it out and stay flexible. Write out things that you think will work for the both of you that you will enjoy. You may only start with one thing and then build it over the year as you get to know the youth and what he or she likes to do. Put your plan where you can see it. It’s okay to leave some blanks and fill them in later or to fill them in and then change them — flexibility is a must.
– Track your plan. Write down somewhere when you notice changes in attitude or when the youth does positive things for you or others that were not typical before. Make a list that can be reviewed at the end of the year by yourself to see the difference you made.
– Keep it realistic. Make sure you set realistic goals. I will help _____ to feel better about their appearance or I will help _____ to improve their grade in English by two grades — a D to a B.
– Accountability is a must. It would be great if you could get another adult to commit to a similar goal and have them join you in the activities and to share in the belonging aspect. You could join a youth program like 4-H. This will also help you to be accountable for the plan that you have set forth. As a word of caution, never be alone with a youth you don’t know as a protection for the youth and for you.
– The feelings of belonging and self-worth are two of the greatest gifts we can give a person. So I hope you will help a youth out by giving these gifts this year. Help youths to believe in themselves and you will feel better about yourself also. I hope you will think seriously about this and look for that youth who needs a positive role model and adult influence in their lives and reach out to them.
To learn more about the 4-H program, contact Marla Lowder, Tanana District 4-H agent, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, at 474-2427 or email@example.com or Taylor Maida, 4-H program assistant at 474-1914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.