FAIRBANKS — How is it that in this age of texting, email, Facebook and Twitter, young people feel more disconnected than ever from adults who care?
Search Institute research shows 35 percent of young people say they feel a caring adult at school truly knows them, let alone their interests. Congregations and youth organizations don’t fare much better.
Research shows the powerful value of positive relationships between young people and caring adults. By initiating meaningful conversations with young people, educators and other caring adults can help students find and discover their “sparks” — those activities and interests that unleash a young person’s energy and joy.
Research shows when young people know and develop a spark — and receive the support of adults in growing that spark — they
• have higher grades in school
• have better school attendance
• are more likely to be socially competent
• are more likely to be physically healthy
• are more likely to volunteer to help others
• are more likely to care for the environment
• are more likely to have a sense of purpose
In light of this research, think of how our youths would benefit if every adult took an interest in at least three young people who are not their own children. We could make a difference in so many lives and build the future leaders we want leading our communities, state and country.
Think back to when you were a child and see if you can’t remember an adult who made a positive influence on your life. How did he or she do it? What made that person special to you? How can you apply that to one or more youth you deal with now?
As a parent you do your best to raise your children in a positive manner. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told, “If it comes from you they will listen to you better because you are not the parent.” If this is true, think how important it is to be that positive adult influence who helps create a spark in young people.
I spent last weekend at our 4-H horse activity — it was an exciting yet melancholy time for me. I have some great seniors who I am sad to be losing as they move on. On the other hand, I took a few minutes to sit among our young 9- and 10-year-olds and get to know them. They are the future of the program and I hope to build relationships with them like I have with my outgoing seniors.
My goal is to be a positive influence in the lives of as many young people as I can. I need to connect and try to help bring out their “spark” so they can be the best they can, because everyone has potential.
To learn more about the 4-H program, contact Marla Lowder, UAF Cooperative Extension Service Tanana District 4-H and youth development agent, at 474-2427 or email@example.com. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.