local lapidary club only accepts adult members. Propose a joint adult/child membership, giving that child the same (age factored) opportunities to build social capital in the club. A similar approach can be taken with organi- zations that refuse to take youthful volunteers. Offer to give your time in partnership with the child, a two-for- one volunteer bargain. Adult advocates are often neces- sary to pave the way for genuine youth involvement in many groups. Give children contact with the workaday world. They need to know people with a range of hobbies and careers. Seek out those who are passionate about chem- istry, bird watching, farming, the Civil War, engineering, astronomy, bagpipes, geology, blacksmithing, wood carving, drumming…well, you get the idea. Something vital is transmitted when one person’s enthusiasm sets off a spark of interest in a child. We’re rarely turned own when we ask to learn from others. People who love what they do can’t help but inspire kids and, they often tell me, the kids reignite their hope for the future of their work. Help local businesses tune in to children’s interests. For example, a bakery might hang children’s art on the walls, make meeting space available for a kids’ chess club, host Invent-A-Cookie contests, open the kitchen for tours, offer apprenticeships to aspiring young pastry chefs, teach parent-child baking classes, invite speakers children long To Take on real responsibiliTies and make useful
con Tribu Tions. this is how they advance in skill and maturity.
Involve children by giving them real input and
responsibility in civic groups, churches, co-ops,
CSAs, arts organizations, clubs, and neighborhood organizations.
Give children contact with the workaday
world. They need to know people with a range
of hobbies and careers.
Help local businesses tune in to children’s
interests. Businesses that are truly engaged
in this way inspire loyal customers, and also
enliven the community.
Create age-bridging partnerships, such as
between babies and nursing home residents.
Include young people in civic affairs, giving
them genuine input into programs and policies.
is a path to wholeness.”
to explain the science of yeast and flour, give cupcakes
as prizes for youth community volunteer hours, etc.
Businesses that are truly engaged in this way inspire
loyal customers, and also enliven the community.
Create age-bridging partnerships, as we did with
babies and nursing home residents. Nonprofit organizations are great places to start. One successful program,
called Girlfriend Circle, started due to complaints. A
group of women at a senior center often told a volunteer
that they had no hope for the future because children
“nowadays” are rude. The volunteer offered to set up a
tea party for the ladies that included her daughters and
their friends. At that first event the girls were seated
between their older hostesses. Everyone enjoyed a lesson in napkin origami. Then they took part in a Q&A to
learn about one another. After sharing refreshments,
both age groups were eager to meet again. The Girlfriend Circle met bimonthly for several years, finding
their friendships instructive and rewarding.
Include young people in civic affairs, giving them
genuine input into programs and policies. This works in
Hampton, Virginia. Young people take leadership roles
by holding conferences and open forums, advising mu-
nicipal divisions, and helping to run the Hampton Youth
Teen Center. City administration also includes a Youth
Commission, with 24 youth commissioners, three youth
planners and one youth secretary—all high school age.
Laura Grace Weldon is a farmer and writer in Ohio. She’s the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. Connect with er at lauragraceweldon.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamily