Young People Must Have Supportive Relationships
Young people must have supportive community, supportive relationships, and a say in building and contributing to their communities. While this includes peer-to-peer support, it also includes strong mentor, organizational, and intergenerational relationships. During adolescence, social relationships become increasingly important as young people seek out community and individual identities. Developmental relationships encourage both intermediate outcomes including social-emotional skills, prosocial behaviors, and leadership skills, and long-term outcomes, including academic success, reduced high-risk behaviors, and civic engagement
One of the topics youth discussed at the ward meetings was unity, which includes togetherness and fostering a sense of community. Unity was a prevalent topic, with 56 responses comprising about 15% of all responses. This theme was most discussed at the meetings for Wards 6 and 8, though it was also mentioned at Wards 1, 5, 11, 13, and the Minneapolis American Indian Center, which is in Ward 6. The widespread geographic nature of the responses shows that youth across the city would like futures that are more unified, and this is not bound by rage, age, or gender, as the youth at these ward meetings were diverse along these lines.The unity topic seeks to ensure that youth have access to strong community ties and has two sub-topics: togetherness and community. The sub-topic of togetherness and overall positive feelings about the future spoke to developing a sense of confidence and knowing every young person has equal opportunities to pursue the live they want, evidenced by responses such as “accepting identities” and “opportunities—hope that I can get to anything (dream big)”. The second subtheme is sense of community, which includes support networks, building positive communities, and having a place to call home, such as “outreach programs to get better connected w/ people in the community.”
The comment cards also spoke to unity, mostly either in response to what young people’s experiences in Minneapolis should look like, or what they like about Minneapolis. Most of the comment card responses regarding what they like about Minneapolis were related to the community and togetherness subtopics. This shows that, while youth generally feel supported by their communities, they still see room for the city to grow to be a truly equitably, inclusive, and unified city.
There is a general negative societal attitude towards youth of color that is rooted in historical and ongoing racism and encumbers intergenerational relationships. These negative attitudes disproportionately stigmatize youth of color who are viewed as a nuisance. Those who view youth as problems to the larger community and lack intercultural awareness to engage with racially and ethnically diverse youth are often reluctant to engage with youth, restricting any chance of social connection within communities. Adults are not connected with youth because they fear interacting with and distrust youth, which likely comes out of a lack of intercultural understanding between a majority white adult population and a majority person-of-color youth population. This fear and distrust limits the extent to which youth have positive adult mentors and role models in their lives, which is problematic, as caring adult relationships are a significant developmental asset for young people.
Youth are relationship-oriented and value social connectedness, relationships, and community. Supportive youth-adult relationships and mentorships are critical for healthy development of young people. Together, we can draw on the natural human desire for relationships and community to build and maintain strong relationships and communities.