How often do you hear that teens and youth are smarter than their educated parents, teachers, administrators and other adults in their lives? NEVER. An amazing new evidence based practice is sweeping across Geauga County letting us see how youth are smarter than adults in many ways. So before you get to angry, let me explain…

Youth today face many more issues than most adults faced growing up, especially with the massive amount of technology they are constantly surrounded by. We see some youth struggling with addiction, bullying, mental illness, problems in school at home and with peers. However, do we REALLY know what most youth are struggling with? For most adults the answer is NO. So we decided to ask adults in our schools and communities what they think the problems are that youth face today? Here are some of the responses we received: drugs (especially heroin), prescription pills, vaping, too involved in technology, underage drinking, they are lazy, and finally, they don’t do anything in school/not challenged. Then we asked students from various Geauga County schools the same question. Here are their responses: mental illness, mostly anxiety and depression; social media’s impact on negative self- image (because of the “picture perfect lives” others are portraying); social isolation; negativity on social media; and pressure…. not peer pressure, but pressure to be perfect and very high achieving, mostly coming from parents and schools.

So what does this mean? Youth are the experts, and are smarter than adults when it comes to what they face and experience every day. So the big question is why don’t we listen to what they have to say? The usual adult approach is…. “this is the problem you are facing and this is how we will fix it”. The new movement is here to let you know that this thinking is going to be a thing of the past.

Starting in 2015, ESC introduced our schools to a new evidence based practice called Youth Led Prevention (YLP). It is exactly as it sounds: youth telling adults what issues they face, and advocating for their ideas on how to fix them. The adult leader or allies’ role is to help guide the process of identifying the problem, determining capacity to change the problem, developing solutions, implementing ideas, and even evaluating the impact of their solutions. We are allowing our youth to be smarter than adults, we are listening to what they have to say, and teaching them how to act on their ideas. This process is called the Strategic Planning Framework.

Youth Led Prevention has allowed so many students in Geauga County to speak out that we now have YLP groups in seven school buildings, and have 14 representatives on our Youth Advisory Council (YAC). We are proud of the youth- led activities these students have undertaken in such a short amount of time.

Please check back for more articles, and to see what your local YLP group is doing in your community!


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