The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention….

— Rachel Naomi Remen

For those of us who work for, with, and about youth, it can be easy to believe we know what youth think, about their school, their friends, their free time. Why wouldn’t we? After all, we see them, talk with them, spend time with them regularly.

So it’s important to remember that the Pathway approach to youth engagement asks us to check that assumption – and check in with young people.

Pathway goals like “Every Student will have access to a stable relationship with an involved parent or caregiver” and “Every student will feel accepted” make it clear: learning how our young people experience our community must be an important driver as we plan actions along the pathway.

To learn how young people all across our area experience community, Itasca Area schools kick off the Youth Voice survey this week.  From now through mid-October, every 7th through 12th grader will have the opportunity to share, anonymously, their perceptions of the strengths and supports they have – and need – in their lives. A huge thank-you to the staff at the nine school who are coordinating the data collection and to the 3000+ students who are completing the survey.

But the survey is just the tool. The real power is in the listening.

That begins November 20, when Youth Voice survey results will headline the next Student Success region-wide convening, and fuel conversations and planning in local communities. (You can RSVP for that event now.)

Youth themselves will tell us how we can better support them on their Pathway to Success. If we listen well and wisely, our path will quickly become clear.