As great as it might seem to be a youth worker, to trust a youth worker or to have contact with one. The youth workers role and presence in the life of a young person is not to save them.
The youth workers role can not always stop the young person from doing wrong despite how passionate, skilled or creative they are. Youth Workers are neither heroes, friends or teachers to young people, but they do position themselves as a guide. They absolutely can empower a young person to make informed choices, support them to engage in alternative ways of living, also to seek out opportunities they would not usually find. Youth workers can provide a safe space whilst also facilitating learning environments which can enable the young person to have epic experiences. If the youth worker has access to a wide network of professionals they are able to connect young people to gatekeepers. The young person could also utilise the youth worker by way of providing personal statements when required during critical life events such as job or college applications.
If you are a young person who finds life challenging, you would benefit from a youth worker. Did you know you can have more than one? If you are an adult, I believe you should be one, but if you are not, then please get connected to one. Every Youth Worker needs other adults from a range of professions connected to them because every great youth worker builds a network to support the young people that they are working with. If the young people they support have issues with the law, the youth worker can connect them to good affordable lawyers, youth offending teams, police departments and social services. If the young people they support are looking for work, their youth worker can support them to find apprenticeships, free or discounted courses, companies with jobs and corporates with employment volunteers. If a youth worker's young people are creative, they can be connected to producers, artists, television companies and theatres. The list is endless and Youth Workers work endlessly.
Youth Workers are usually more up to date then many parents because they spend a lot of their time listening to young people and seek to provide services that the young people want and need.
Unfortunately, being a guide doesn't get front page news, neither does the role sound glamorous. They are usually easily forgotten and not spoken about in history, although you may find them sporting cool trainers with their company tee or hoody. Youth Workers despite not being heroes, always attempt to show up for the good and the bad. They will sometimes forget about their own wellbeing whilst protecting or working hard to safeguard others. Youth Workers were once young people themselves and can often remember that one person who was there (or not there) for them at an important time in their life.
Youth Work was only this year (7th January) announced as essential and recognised as key workers! The presence of youth workers helped a lot of young people through a pandemic in 2020 and the 80% cuts to the youth service and Tottenham riots in 2011! Youth Workers even without a cape or leggings are for many young people, heroes.
I made choices as a young person that led me to be caught up in gangs, promiscuity and self-harm, but at different seasons in my life Youth Workers/Leaders (unspoken of heroes) kept me going and for that I am thankful. Teen Spirit 2003 - RIP Lucas Langdon, Edmonton County - Miss Badman (Dance Teacher and "Youth Worker") ARC Youth - Davis Kunihira and Pastor Peter Nembhard, Craigs Park (Unity Hub) Youth Centre, Sarah-Monique and Toni (RIP).
If you are a young person what is stopping you from reaching out to a Youth Worker or a trusted professional adult? What Youth Leader have you forgotten to thank or appreciate for their presence?
If you are an adult what passion do you have for the younger generation and how can you make a difference? I would love to see some gratitude or thoughts left in the comments.
Until next time. :-)