Being an Adult Ally

Being an adult ally is similar to being an asset-builder.

An adult ally:

  • Recognizes that all youth have strengths and skills and actively looks for the strengths in others
  • Takes the time to build trust and connections with students
  • Looks for “sparks” – the things youth are passionate about – the “hook” that motivates them
  • Is willing to work collaboratively with students, even if it takes longer
  • Looks for teachable moments
  • Has the wisdom to let youth try out ideas even if they might fail
  • Recognizes that the process is more important than the outcome

One of the biggest considerations and barriers for adult allies to build meaningful youth engagement is time. When working with youth remember:

Understanding Youth Motivation

In June 2011, the Halton Region Health Department retained Ipsos Reid to conduct youth focus groups on youth engagement. When asked about reasons why they choose to get involved, youth responded:

10 - 13 Years

  • For fun
  • Help others
  • Learn new things
  • Meet new people
  • Build social skills

14 - 17 Years

  • Create opportunities
  • Build confidence/feel good
  • Help others
  • Try new things
  • Meet new people

Source: Ipsos Reid Survey, 2011

Motivators for becoming involved naturally differ by age. For the youngest group, the possibility of having fun is easily the greatest motivator getting involved with social issues; they often see it as another activity in their schedule, like piano lessons or soccer. For teens, creating opportunities, bettering themselves, helping others and building confidence are key motivations.

“An adult ally helps youth have their voice heard through meaningful engagement. With support of an adult ally, young people can be meaningfully involved in every stage of an initiative” (Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, 2007).

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