Watching LEADPrep teens navigate their first week of service learning in Guatemala, we are impressed! We see students adapting to dramatically different ways of eating, showering, communicating, using the bathroom, etc. Students who are sometimes reluctant to be actively involved are diving into new situations. They are trying new foods and customs with open minds. Students are disconnected from screens, staying busy and happy. (Check out our Facebook for great photos of this adventure.) These are empowered teens, living this cultural and social justice experience fully!
What are some of the reasons our teens are having such an amazing experience? How can this be applied to daily life in the United States? Three ideas for this formula of teen empowerment come to mind.
The first is finding or creating opportunities for teens to engage in new situations that foster learning and growth. During this critical time of forming identity, new perspectives can influence and inspire life directions for teens. Succeeding in challenges is confidence-building!
The second is providing for healthy peer interaction. Teens can rise to new responsibilities with a sense of fun when social needs are being met. We are seeing positive peer influence encouraging students to be their best as they adapt to the Guatemalan culture and communication in Spanish.
The third is actively listening and responding. We adults can be so passionate about our hopes and expectations for our teens that we unintentionally plow over their fledgling ideas. If we can listen carefully, withhold advice, and ask clarifying questions, our teens will feel valued and supported.
Our goal as LEADPrep educators will be to continue to find ways to use this formula. We plan to empower our teens to continue to take informed risks. Maybe applying for a summer job or volunteer project they hadn’t previously considered. We will provide opportunities to have healthy peer interactions. We will listen and respond intentionally. Most importantly, we will encourage our wonderful students to keep their minds and hearts open as they grow into globally aware adults who make a positive difference in the world!