Raising Successful Youth
What do kids need to be successful? Often we look to external factors: good schools, supportive parents, and a sense of security and hope. And while these things are absolutely important, there is a growing understanding that other characteristics can be just as important for success. A recent report from the University of Chicago looks more closely at what this means and how communities can best support their young people.
The report identifies some characteristics that young people need to be successful, including the ability to take an active role in making life choices, an identity based on goals and values, and the ability to adapt and adjust to a variety of settings. But how exactly can youth develop these essential characteristics?
First, young people need to try new things and interact with a variety of people. Activities like playing a musical instrument, participating in sports, creating art, or going on field trips help young people to develop self-awareness and a broader understanding of the world.
Young people must also be able to practice things they want to improve at, ideally with regular adult feedback. Practicing allows kids both to improve at what they are doing and also strengthen their desire to keep learning. It also involves setting goals and making plans to achieve those goals. And practicing things in childhood also helps teens carry these skills for practice into adulthood.
Finally, kids need to be able to make their own choices and contribute to group decisions or activities. This includes having their opinions listened to and their ideas respected and taking an active role in improving the community through their contributions. Making meaningful contributions builds self-esteem in young people as they grow to see themselves as capable and valuable.
Low-income youth often have fewer opportunities to have these kinds of experiences and to develop the characteristics for success. tCI has been fostering these characteristics for years with our wide variety of youth programs that offer children and teens the opportunity to try new things, get creative, practice skills, and make contributions to the program and to the community as a whole.
The Holy Cross Marimba Ensemble is one great example among many. It gives the participants the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, to practice with adult feedback, to travel through the community and the country and interact with a variety of people, and to grow into leadership roles where they can contribute to the group. When the young people see how much the community values their music, it builds a sense of self-worth and teaches them that they have something to give.