Engaged youth citizenship: Learning in action

Job shadowing can take on new form

What does it mean to be a good citizen? How can we promote citizenship among our youth? How in this age of technology and minuteby-minute, instantaneous feedback can we get our kids excited about a process that takes time and face to face engagement?

The secret might be giving kids a hands-on glimpse into the process. Imagine taking the concept of job shadowing or interning to a whole new level. Whether you are an adult or a youth, experiencing something for yourself will make you much more likely to understand and believe in the impact that event can have on your life. Arguably, if you have the opportunity to engage in an experience your view of the world can be transformed.

The Jefferson City YMCA Youth in Government program provides one such opportunity for youth to experience what it is like to make decisions at the state department level. Their statewide Executive Branch Leadership Institute Program provides youth an opportunity to: research State Departments and become familiar with their purpose, learn in detail about the daily functions and discuss issues facing State Departments, and interact with key staff and tour State facilities.

What better way for youth to become excited about the role and function of State Departments than to experience their day-to-day realities? Missouri 4-H offers an experience called Missouri Citizenship in Action which puts youth in the role of legislators, judges, media representatives, and lobbyists. Participants have the opportunity to train with professionals in each of the fields. Youth act as legislators to consider bills, lawyers to prosecute or defend the accused, judges to make decisions based on the merits of their cases, and lobbyists to work to influence the legislators while the media reports on it all.

Encouraging youth to become engaged citizens is one approach for their involvement in future civic organizations like Rotary or Optimist Club. Another approach is modeling good citizenship by voting, running for local offices, or petitioning for local issues. However, engaging youth in the process of citizenship in action will make more of an impact on youth long term.

Please encourage your youth to become involved in organizations like YMCA Youth in Government or 4-H. Engaging our youth early and often in citizenship will help them to become a part of the solution to our biggest challenges locally, state and nationwide.

For more information on these programs please contact Jenny Flatt at 573-634-2824 or flattj@missouri.edu.

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