The youth in our communities are our future. If no one puts the time and energy into helping them develop strong leadership skills and qualities, then who will? And without the proper care and guidance to nurture and grow their abilities, communities may suffer without someone in a position as a leader. That’s where this guide comes into play. If you are currently working with adolescents in your area, or you feel your heart telling you to get started, you have come to the right place! Youth Opportunities has listed some practical tips and resources to help you hone your skills as a teacher, mentor, and friend.

To become a leader, you need to understand why you want to help the community and put in the work necessary to sharpen those skills. Then, you can use everything you’ve learned and turn it outward, teaching others the importance of leadership and responsibility. The communities of tomorrow are only as strong as their leaders – and you can help set them up for success.

Know Your “Why”

First of all, consider the benefits of working with youth. Understanding your purpose will help you through the challenges ahead. 

  • Many adolescents in our communities come from difficult situations at home. As a mentor, TeenLife points out that you can play a significant role in helping them cultivate positive behaviors and attitudes that will help them later in life. 
  • Being someone adolescents can turn to in hard times can help prevent them from making bad decisions.
  • Guiding your mentees through adolescence can help them build the skills necessary to get into a good college. 
  • You can also help adolescents develop the leadership qualities they need to thrive in the workforce for decades to come!

Work on Yourself

No one wants to follow a leader who isn’t holding up to their end of the bargain. Here are a few ways you can get yourself ready for the role:

  • Always set goals for yourself, and talk to your mentees about your plans for accomplishing them. 
  • If you have been waiting to go back to school, then get an online degree in your chosen profession. 
  • Maintain a consistent fitness routine, and invite your mentees to join you. 
  • Practice discipline in other ways, such as eating a nutritious diet, prioritizing sleep, and fostering the most important relationships in your life. 

Guide Your Youth

Finally, let’s touch on a few specific steps you can take to help develop adolescents into strong leaders:

  • Learn to see the potential in every mentee you work with. Then provide them resources available through Youth Opportunities to help guide them in their endeavors.
  • Through every word and action, work to build self-confidence in your mentee. This includes providing constructive feedback, creating a process map for the mentee to follow, acting as a sounding board, and essentially acting as a role model.
  • Regularly provide positive, constructive feedback when your mentee needs help through a challenge. 
  • Have fun together; suggests planning exciting activities that both you and your mentee will enjoy. If there is a valuable life lesson in the activity, even better!

Working with youth comes with its challenges. But the reward of helping an adolescent navigate adversity and develop into a strong leader makes all the hard work pay off. Consider the tips above as you prepare to be a leader that youth in your community want to follow!