Today’s post comes from Judy Lundquist. Judy works as youth Job Counselor with the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training and is a member of the Governance Council for the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success.  Judy shares what she’s learning from the Youth Voice Survey. 



Watching the Super Bowl Game last weekend, I laughed at the commercial showing footage from twenty years ago of Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbal discussing the Internet.  So much has changed in such a short time.  That commercial prompted me to think, what might be different 20 years from today – right here in the Itasca Area – because we responded to the challenges our young people expressed in the Youth Voice Survey.

With the release of the Student Voice Survey results, our young people have given us a gift.  They’ve given us a window to view our community through their eyes.  Personally, I was suprised by what I learned.  I believed we had developed quality, healthy activities for teens.  And by doing so, they should be able to see just how much our community cares about them.  The survey results tell us another story – teens don’t all see our community the same way I do.

In fact, I’ve learned that as teens get older, they are less inclined to participate in activities outside of school and they report feeling less connected to adults who care for them in our community.  This is especially evident when looking at how boys report connections to their community.

What can we do?  What is it about our programs or about our culture that leads to boys to participate less as they age and what, if anything, do we want to do about it?

I’m a member of a local network of after school providers called the “Itasca Networks for Youth (INY)”.  Program providers in the network are using these results to motivate us to move forward.  We’ve decided to work this year to draw more teens into our programs and are taking an approach that will include listening to teens to understand what keeps them from participating in the first place.

I work as a job councilor for teenagers.  The youth programs I work with often require that I include mandated curriculum that provide little room for innovation.  My challenge is to continue to innovate so teens are fully engaged in their learning.

We have many barriers, but I continue to be hopeful for our future. . .

What gives me hope is that all over the greater Itasca County area, youth leaders and community teams are working to make programs more meaningful to all youth — especially to older, male youth. We are working to make our communities better for our teens as they mature into adulthood. With the information from the Student Voices Survey, we are beginning to ask ourselves the right questions and soon we are developing action.  And, we are learning the importance of including youth in the process.

Twenty years from now, when we are looking back on this day, I hope we will be part of a community where not only are all our young people valued, all our young people feel valued.