Youth Voice... Are we listening?

YLA 10 year Reunion, August 2015

Some folks say “Be nice to your kids. They’ll pick your nursing home.”  However, if we allow ourselves to be truthful, it’s bigger than that.  We need to be nice to and listen to young people because they will also run that nursing home… our community… and the world.

For the past 30 years, I’ve dedicated many volunteer hours empowering our community’s youth.  Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Mentoring, Kids of Honor, Youth Leadership Academy… all of these organizations encourage youth voice and youth engagement.  I believe youth voice is important.  Why? I believe we all benefit from shared ideas. Diversity of perspective brings deeper understanding.

According to the US Government, we live in an area that’s growing faster and is younger than most.  The Salisbury Metropolitan Statistical Area (including Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset and Sussex Counties) went from a 1990 population of 97,440 to a 2013 population of 381,570.  Interestingly, Salisbury is younger than the State or County and it’s getting younger. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/bulletins/2013/b-13-01.pdf

Given the expansion of the region, there is increasing incentive to make this a place where people want to live. I’d like to suggest that our young citizens are ready, willing, and able to help.

Wondering if others felt the same, I asked some friends (both young… and more seasoned) for their thoughts on Facebook. Here’s a sampling of their comments:

·         If we live our lives remembering that we inherit the Earth and our most important duty is to leave it better than we found it then yes, it is absolutely imperative to invest in the youth. Their voice is not jaded and is genuine and real. This is true anywhere and especially in a city with Salisbury's potential. – Heather Martin, Salisbury MD

·         Adults should care about what young people say ‘cause we are the next generation.  We can make a change and also we can have a great impact on adults.  Also I think that Salisbury should listen to us ‘cause we can have good ideas to improve things in Salisbury. – Jasmine Taylor, Salisbury, MD

·         It is the youth who will inherit Salisbury. If they do not care, they will leave it as soon as soon as is convenient. – Evan Light, Berlin, MD

·         It is our young people that will be our next business leaders, educators, politicians and future philanthropists. Engagement in our local community is so vital to the health and future of our City.– Stephanie Willey, Salisbury, MD

·         When a place is your home you seek to make it better for the youth that you are leaving it to. And let's be honest, there are no more blatantly honest individuals out here than our youth. They will tell you exactly how it is. That's why they are critical in our collective development. -  Nathan Weeks, Eden, MD

If you knew your community was listening, What would you tell them? Please share your thoughts, comments & concerns!