The Opinions of Kids Count

What would we have without the involvement of our youth? What can our youth contribute besides provide numbers for our organization? Are our youth members really worth it? Can they really handle the responsibility of leadership in certain sections? These are just some of the many questions adult members of local groups ask when considering to involve youth in the organization.

Youth can provide excitement, enthusiasm, energy, ideas, and "manpower" for those projects where parent volunteers are shorthanded or short on time. By offering leadership opportunities, you unlock a very dynamic and positive force.

Youth are genuinely interested in improving their communities, their education, and the world in which they live. Scouting offers them the means to realize these goals through participation in programs. If belonging to Scouting means providing young people with the opportunities to develop leadership skills, communicate with policy makers, and contribute to their schools and to their communities, then they will be sincerely interested.

Further, increasing parent involvement is a key issue with Scouts Canada—and this can often be challenging. By inviting youth to join and participate in Scouting as full members, parents have a unique opportunity to interact with their children. Just as youth have much to learn from adults, adults have a great deal to learn from youth. By establishing a supportive atmosphere, parents (serving in the capacity as adults) and their children (serving in the capacity as youth) can openly discuss their views and share their experiences.

It should be the responsibility of Scouting groups/districts/regions to create opportunities for the effective involvement of youth. Answer the following questions to assess how much youth involvement your Scouting group/district/region currently has:

•• Does your group feel youth involvement is valuable?

•• Does your group allow co-ed membership?

•• Do youth serve on committees or on your Group Committee?

•• Does your group allow youth to hold elected offices?

•• Do meetings conflict with youths’ classes or other activities?

•• Does your group offer programs and activities that interest youth and encourage their participation?

•• Does your group address youth involvement and participation?

If you answered "yes" to all the questions, congratulations—you are proof positive that youth involvement works! But, if you answered "no" to any of the questions, don’t worry. Try to form an action plan for improving youth involvement and for changing your answers to "yes." Think of youth involvement as a process. The first step is learning about its advantages and making it a priority. The next step is recruiting youth and involving them in your programs and projects. Once they have mastered a particular responsibility you can start preparing them to work with more complex issues.

"Unlike some generations, which viewed young people as just youth members of their section… we need to change our views of the young. We need to see youth as citizens: as resources and producers who are valued, needed, respected, and acknowledged."

Reproduced for by permission of Scouter Douglas Moore - Nova Scotia