In my graduate studies I've been reading a lot about positive youth development and their connections to the communities. So, I wanted to reflect on my thoughts here on how important youth's involvement in the community is to positive youth development.
I have experienced that many youth today have a sense of entitlement. That everything is and should be handed to them. Please note this is a statement from the environment I currently live in and where I am raising my children. I strongly feel that the only way our youth can truly be good citizens is to learn early on that their involvement in the community, giving back and volunteer time is the only way they will find their sense of belonging. There are three primary areas for youth today to feel belonging: family, school and extracurricular activities (which in my mind includes the community aspect). I feel that the extracurricular aspect is the one where you have the opportunity to choose like-minded people to pursue common interests. This is where you build those strong bonds and external support.
My Daughter is my example here. She is still very young, but I hope I am instilling the positive developmental qualities needed to be a successful adult. As a family we do a lot of volunteering and donating through church and other venues, with the kids. Every Thanksgiving the church does a food drive requesting complete meals for those in need. When my daughter was turning 6 all she wanted for a gift was canned goods or money for canned goods that she could then bring to church for those who may not have food. And that’s what she received. She was elated! In her, I am beginning to see a caring, socially aware, thoughtful young girl that would rather help someone else, than get another meaningless toy. This behavior has continued with her request to make and bring items to the local pet shelter. She is developing her sense of empathy and responsibility .