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Youth Heroes: Reuniting Refugees

May 29th, 2015

Youth With a Mission sponsored a picnic with free food and entertainment to reunite Sudanese refugees (boys age 17-25). These boys lived in the same town in the Sudan, but they hadn’t seen each other since coming to America. They had a great time eating an American style picnic, playing soccer, and learning to play Frisbee. Volunteers cooked, transported the boys, led games, and just enjoyed time with the Sudanese boys. It was a great community effort involving 3 nonprofit agencies, a college, and many volunteers.  “Playing soccer is a task focused activity that helps bridge the gap between language barriers AND it enables people to express feelings they can’t express verbally,” recalls Karen Ragsdale, of her time as the volunteer coordinator of World Relief.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

8 Simple Gifts to Celebrate Youth Achievements

May 27th, 2015
  1. Make a certificate that highlights their work
  2. Give them candy with a note attached:
    • Starbursts—you are a star student
    • Kudos—we’re grateful for you
    • Almond Joy—you bring joy to our group!
  3. Surprise them with a hot chocolate or lollipop party
  4. Bake a thank you cake or cupcakes
  5. Give gift certificates to their favorite places
  6. Make CDs or iTunes playlists with songs that commemorate their achievements
  7. Provide a free meal or soda
  8. Handwrite a note expressing what you appreciate about them

Want to learn more?  Check out our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Youth Heroes: Displace Me Campaign

May 22nd, 2015

Ingrid Smith, of STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) shared that the first thing that came to mind for this focus area was a national event called “Displace Me,” a demonstration for peace in Uganda. The founders of Invisible Children simulated a refugee camp, prayed for the displaced families in Africa, and challenged Americans to pay attention to the war in Uganda.   The participants made their own shelters out of cardboard boxes.  They rationed out saltine crackers at certain times to simulate the poverty that takes place in refugee camps.  They had to make multiple trips to the water station, to simulate water scarcity in the camps. Ingrid Smith, a participant, says, “Even crackers sound good for a meal when you are hungry.”  She said the event reminded the participants to be grateful for their freedom, and not complain about trivial matters.  They learned about the war in Uganda from a Ugandan speaker.  They wrote to senators about ending war in Uganda.  It was a great lesson about politics, community change, and ways individuals can impact the system.  For more information, visit www.invisiblechildren.com.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

9 Daily Disciplines for Practicing Happiness

May 20th, 2015
  1.  For every negative thing you say, you must state two positive statements to negate the bad juju and reinstate positive vibes. This tactic comes from counselor Elizabeth Parrot.
  2. Use visual cues to remind yourself to be grateful. Post a favorite quote someplace you can see it every day or put a string on your finger. Wear a bracelet on your arm to remind you to focus on good things. Every time you catch yourself saying something negative, move the bracelet to your other arm as a reminder to start again. Forgetfulness is often the force that blocks us from being grateful, so create a visual reminder.
  3. Use an inspirational daily reading or look at things that make you happy. Some examples are the comics, a favorite blog, stories of kindness, the sunset, or photos on Pinterest.
  4. First thing in the morning, before rushing headlong into the day, jump into gratitude and say out loud or in your head three of four things that make you happy. Name little things, maybe even the ones that you take for granted, such as hot showers, coffee, the coveted best seat at the coffee shop, or the fact that all your toes wiggle just as they should.
  5. Always note the smallest efforts and successes. As you start your day, you can probably bank on the fact that not everything will go perfectly. So, why not start the day by identifying five things you have control over. Examples include brushing your teeth, telling your children you love them as they go off to school, getting in a 10-minute workout at the beginning of the day, saying no to the extra donut. We aren’t perfect. Our days aren’t perfect. But there are gifts in each day and we have a choice: we can look for things to be thankful for, or we can disregard things that happened because they didn’t meet our expectations. If you choose to be thankful and magnify that thanks by acknowledgment, you create more of the very energy you want in your life.
  6. Use the words “happy heart” and “happy day” in your daily conversations to generate happiness and remind yourself and others to think about being happy. We often end phone calls and e-mails with “happy day.” And one of our friends uses “happiness” as her password to serve as a daily reminder.
  7. Refer to your journal for inspiration. If you keep a journal of improvements, growth, observations, and unexpected surprises, refer back to it on the hard days when you need a pick-me-up.
  8. Look for successes around you in your youth, colleagues, and even yourself. Be quick to tell your colleagues about little victories; they mostly likely need encouragement too.
  9. Listen to our Practicing Happiness channel on youtube.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Youth Heroes “Think Locally, Act Globally”

May 15th, 2015

Amanda Smith shared with me the story of one of her favorite non-profits. Its history tells us that three college grads from film school went to Africa looking for a story. They had no particular agenda and no preconceived ideas of what they would find or even wanted. Once they arrived, they started having conversations with people looking for something to document and asking if anyone had a good story.

 

They were directed go to Northerm Uganda where they learned that children were being abducted and used as soldiers in the Sudan/Northern Uganda war (which has been going on for over 20 years). Soldiers would abduct children, ages 5-12 year olds, from their homes or while they were walking to school or playing out in the village.

 

This led to the creation of a documentary called Invisible Children by the three graduate students. They moved beyond that initial work to educate others on a terrible injustice of abuse to create an organization called Invisible Children.

 

One aspect of this non-profit is a bracelet campaign. The bracelets are made from twigs harvested in Africa and made into bracelets. Children do the harvesting, dying and shaping of the bracelets and then the bracelets are shipped to the U.S. for Invisible Children. Invisible Children, in turn sells the bracelets along with a dvd that features a child who is part of the bracelet campaign, raising awareness and funds to build new schools. 100% of the proceeds go back to Northern Uganda for this effort.

 

The children are given employment and a purpose as well as hope for a better education and better life.   Here, youth groups can participate by selling the bracelets, sponsoring a presentation at their church or school, or by – and most importantly – raising awareness that this is going on.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

Sparks, Careers and Daily Living

May 13th, 2015

Recently I watched Mike Rowe in a worthwhile interview that I enjoyed (Don’t Follow Your Passion, Live It, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIB2qqcEOFU). One reason I enjoyed it was because I admire Mike Rowe, and it’s a joy to see people using their skills and talents for a greater good. And like it or not, that is the path Mike Rowe has found himself on after years of doing the show, Dirty Jobs. Aware of and an advocate for closing the skills gap between EXISTING jobs that are out there and available (83% of companies report a shortage of skilled workers and predictions for worsening conditions in the next several years) and making those options known and possible for youth, Mike stands in the gap to promote, advocate and help connect youth to skilled trades through alternate education. (Check out his website for job and scholarship information at http://profoundlydisconnected.com/foundation/.) The other reason I enjoyed the interview and other materials of his I was reading is his practical stance on life: know what you believe is important and live in a way that is consistent with that belief. Don’t follow your passion – bring it with you. In our book, Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms, The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth, one of Ann’s and my emphasis is the practicality of helping youth discover their sparks. Once youth know their “sparks” – the passion inside that makes them light up and gives them energy and purpose – then they have an essential clue to their wiring and their belief system. They can indentify what is important to them and make sure that they include THAT thing in their lives. And as Mike Rowe emphasizes, it may not be realistic to follow passion and try to make a living from it. My passion for writing books is what I do on my own time – I’m no Stephen King!; my work life is focused on what I do well and I work hard at that, but my life is fuller when I have time to write. So you won’t necessarily make a living from passion, but youth (and you) can bring their sparks into their daily lives, routines, relationships and downtime. That spark is important to know. It provides personal meaning, can serve as a compass for choices and bring joy to life. What is your spark? What brings meaning to your day? Check out our book for ideas on how talk and engage youth in the discovery of their sparks.

Youth Heroes Support Women and Children

May 8th, 2015

Julie Stevens involved her youth in a local women’s shelter. It was a homeless shelter for women and children. ‘Our service was simple. We would just go there and love on the kids.   We would play games and do coloring books and just love on them and let them know someone was there.’

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

6 Tips to Help Youth Manage Conflict

May 6th, 2015

As you model how to resolve conflict peacefully, consider these methods to talk through arguments when they happen.

  1. Pull aside the one or two people in conflict to a semi-private place for the conversation. You don’t want to embarrass or shame by having public confrontations. Shaming and making the young person feel uncomfortable won’t get you anywhere in promoting your cause for positive behavior and tends to do more harm than good.
  2. Use a quiet, calm voice. Reprimanding with a loud voice can fuel anger, frustration, or even bitterness, whereas using a quiet voice helps create a calm environment for you and the youth.
  3. If moderating between two youth, ask them to sit face to face and look each other in the eye. Ask them to talk directly to each other and calmly explain their frustrations. (Don’t tattle to the adult but talk to each other.)
  4. Encourage them to be quick to say, “I’m sorry” for a wrong, assumed or real. If they don’t think they’ve done something wrong, but the other person is convinced that an offense has been committed, encourage “offenders” to recognize and validate the “victim’s” feelings. For example, “Nathan, I’m sorry if you think I hit you on purpose. I didn’t mean to, and I’ll try to watch where I’m walking in the future so I don’t bump into you.”
  5. Remind parties to assume the best about the other person. Rarely is someone “out to get you.” Conflicts often happen from misunderstandings and conversations can often set things right.
  6. Once the conflict has been discussed, agree to move forward and move on. Let the conflict go and refuse to take it into the future. It’s done.

Learning how to handle conflict is tricky! It is not an instinct instilled at birth. Conflict resolution is a learned skill that needs to be practiced many times before it becomes second nature. Offer grace to your youth and let them know they can do it and that the skills they are learning will be valuable throughout their lives. Be patient. Keep in mind that in each situation, your purpose is to put the young person first and the results last. As you make it about them, the result you want to see will come.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

6 Strategies for Building Intergenerational Relationships with Youth

May 6th, 2015

Life is not meant to be lived in silos. Humans are hard-wired to connect with others. Young people benefit from meeting different people and working side-by-side on projects as they engage in service and conversation. Find a way to generate interactions with people of various cultures, ages, and lifestyles. Bring them into your classroom or program, plan activities to do with them, visit people who are different from your youth in some way.

Here are 6 strategies that you might consider:

  1. Invite other staff to share their sparks, and make them aware of the interests of your particular youth. This way, other adults can offer encouragement and build connections with your students. Encourage conversations. Encourage questions.
  2. Consider bringing older adults into your building for an intergenerational talent show, a painting class, or a Martin Luther King Day event.
  3. Invite families to bring babies, toddlers, teens, and grandparents to your program often, so you can get to know them. Encourage cross-age mentoring, reading clubs, or nature walks together.
  4. Plan quarterly field trips or do service projects side-by-side with youth from a refugee center or a school for children with disabilities.
  5. Challenge your youth to continually seek relationships through which they can grow and also help others grow. Relationships are transformational—they are the source of constant character development.
  6. Connect youth with classes and people who share similar sparks and interests. If they are interested in cooking, for instance, help them find out about cooking resources around town and online.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  Check it out to help educators, coaches and youth workers find more ways to bring out the best in young people!

Youth Heroes Stand Against Abusive Relationships

May 1st, 2015

Teens Experiencing Abusive Relationships (TEAR) is a group of New Jersey teenagers that want to prevent dating violence through education. Through speaking engagements, print materials, and charity events, TEAR teens define violent relationships and tell their peers how to escape unhealthy relationships. Each of their teen presenters has experienced dating violence personally or they have seen how it has affected a friend. They use their experiences to reach others in similar situations.

 

 

The teen leaders say, “We hope one day we’ll have an office that would include medical assistance, therapy, group sessions, a national dating violence hotline and legal help. Our dreams are big and our efforts to help prevent dating violence will never end. Whether it’s teaching a class, writing a curriculum for schools, or having a hotline and shelter

in the future, TEAR knows that anything is possible.” For more information, visit teensagainstabuse.org

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

3 Tips for Helping Youth Harness Their Emotional Power

April 29th, 2015

Keep in mind these tips that Elizabeth Parrot, a school counselor, recommends to guide you as you help young people harness their power:

  1. Let kids fail. Don’t fix everything for them. People learn from mistakes and that’s where confidence comes from. If we fix everything, kids won’t learn how to live in the tough moments. As they learn to manage their emotions, they are sure to make big blunders. They will blurt out feelings in an inappropriate context, tempers will explode in public places, and they will say hurtful things. After the mistakes happen, talk through the circumstances, and help young people identify ways that they can reconcile any hurt relationships and plan new behavior patterns for future circumstances.
  2. Their brains and their bodies are developing faster than they want. Youth often feel like everyone’s watching them; they feel like they have their own audience watching and waiting to see how they will do, waiting for them to make a mistake, for them to fail. Empathize with young people. Use gentle humor to lighten situations. The world is not ending because something embarrassing happens. Help them learn to laugh at themselves and realize that everyone makes mistakes. Help them learn not take themselves so seriously.
  3. Listen. Are you listening with eyes, ears, and heart? Or are you listening with what you will say next? Listening is the most important thing. They don’t want you to fix them. They just want their voices to be heard. When they feel supported, they will have more courage to look at their behaviors and consider changes that need to be made.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Youth Heroes: Community Clean-Up

April 24th, 2015

In North Carolina, one group of middle school aged children expressed their frustration and concern about the continued presence of broken glass on the sidewalks and paths from their neighborhood to the elementary school as well as on the grassy play areas along the way. There was so much broken glass that they were concerned that their little brothers and sisters would get hurt. As a group, they decided to clean up the sidewalks and the play area and ask adults to help them keep the little kids safe. This group of middle school children became the catalysts for adults (non-parental units) to walk kids to school and to oversee that the playground stayed free of danger.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

13 Ways to Engage Youth as Leaders

April 22nd, 2015

Always be on the lookout for ways to expand power in your group by sharing responsibilities for tasks and leadership. Here are some specific roles youth leaders can play:

  1. Make choices
  2. Make decisions
  3. Allocate priorities
  4. Determine activities
  5. Influence topics
  6. Set and uphold norms
  7.  Take the lead on projects
  8. Advocate
  9. Call the group to order
  10. Give a thought for the day
  11. Lead the group session
  12. Write a grant for a project
  13. Create a website

Youth will be more prepared to navigate personal and group choices in the future if you let them take the lead. Let them practice decision making, communication, time management, and leadership.

As you plan your schedules, activities, and programming, where can youth take the initiative?

Want to learn more?  Continue reading in our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

 

Youth Heroes focus on Peace and Reconciliation

April 17th, 2015

A volunteer group from First Presbyterian Church in Tennessee traveled to Northern Ireland as a part of a worldwide peace and reconciliation project. One of their projects was to restore the flower beds in a 10 unit assisted living center and 10 duplex homes.

 

Jacquie Watlington said, “It seemed like a small project, until the Street Reach organizers told us the significance of the work. We were told that not only did this help restore the tenant pride and sense of well-being, but it was also a means of protection. It turns out that many thieves watch for messy landscaping as a signal that the resident was not able to do the upkeep on their home and would be an easy target for crime.”

 

When they finished their mini-yards, they hosted a cookout in the central courtyard. It took extra time to get their wheelchairs outside, but the senior citizens loved the gathering, as they seldom had reason to socialize with each other or the opportunity to leave their homes for such a celebration.

 

Their other projects included cleaning up the community playground and hosting a community wide cook out for the neighborhood families, a great intergenerational experience.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

3 Practical Ways to Power Up Youth Leadership

April 15th, 2015

Nudge youth who are hesitant to take on leadership roles. Start by encouraging youth to share their sparks. When caught up in the passion of a spark, youth tend to have a boost of confidence and are less self-conscious. Then help them find ways to use their sparks to serve and lead in your program. They will become a coach, an expert, or a mentor without even realizing they were stepping into a leadership position.

Start small. Start sharing power by delegating smaller tasks, such as serving snacks, organizing workspaces, decorating the building, or helping with a fundraiser. Then progress to more complex tasks, such as reading to preschool children, leading games for younger children, helping peers with homework, being an assistant coach for a children’s soccer team, or being a buddy for a newcomer in your program.

Look for ways to spotlight youth strengths during program time. Let them tell jokes, lead activities, demonstrate martial arts or another skill, or cook for parent night. As they explore and live by their sparks, you will see youth come alive, and you will witness a new spirit of life in your group. The ramifications of that new spirit are endless.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!