Over the years I have had the good fortune of working with tens of thousands of youth. I have encountered incredible young people in my four decades of educating, consulting, advising, writing and speaking about success in youth.
My profession as an educator I low-income neighborhoods has allowed me to work directly with young people who arrived from around the world. I have also discussed the issue of developing successful teens with peers and community leaders. In general, some traits can be referred to as common denominators within these success-oriented students. These personal qualities have helped them succeed in their teen years and carries over into adulthood.
One of the main traits that I look for in labeling them as on the road to achieving is that each youth is intimately involved and has obtained real life experiences while working on solving a social issue.
Once these individuals have found their goal and mission to work on they are positioned to see life more clearly. They are connected and involved, directly and indirectly, with a significant social problem, and they see themselves as being able to make a difference and working toward a solution.
These young persons have shared that they learned about the issues through their church, social club, community organization, or simply heard about a volunteer opportunity and started participating. Some say they started when they were only 14-years old.
These young individuals tend to stand out amongst the crowd because they show positive interpersonal and communication skills not commonly seen in their peers. They demonstrate higher levels of maturity than what their actual age. I found that it is because they are working along side with adults, as equals, that they have developed stronger interaction skills.
Their actual hands-on experiences made them more inquisitive and connected in the classroom. They stand out, and they understand the purpose to learning and obtaining an education. They are seeking knowledge that will help them accomplish their goals. They are not ones that are waiting for someone to motivate them. They are eager to learn how to be more efficient and do more for others.
Youth that is working on a goal to help their communities gain a strategy to bypass the trivialities and inconsequential activities that so many youth waste time worrying about it. They are not easily involved in dealing with petty and frivolous campus drama and issues of "who-like-who, who-said-what-to-who, or trying to be in the "in-crowd."
These teens showing little interest in daily social incidentals and can thus become themselves targets of malicious social groups. They find themselves bullied, harassed, or attempts to belittle them for not fitting the norm. I have seen that these young individuals take on a new mission to help and organize others, in the same situation as themselves, and form a new campus club to help advice and offer constructive alternatives and hope.
When we encounter teens who have selected a goal and mission, we must each do everything in our power to encourage them to continue.
If we find a youth that has not embraced a purpose, then we are called upon to work closely with them to help them identify and adopt one.
Let us make it our mission in the upcoming years to support non-profit organizations that work with youth. They are a fabulous vehicle to help teens to define their purpose and become contributing adults.