Reflections on Working with Youth

Posted by Alexa Salvato on Tuesday, May 9, 2017

by Alexa Salvato, '17

Most of my service in the Park Scholar program has involved young people. In fact, most of my experiences throughout college have; from babysitting 9-month-old Alex to helping 17-year-old Beckie edit her writing, working with kids has been intrinsic to my four years in Ithaca. As often as possible, I’ve given these kids my all, but all the cliches about spending time with little ones are true: they have given me so much more than they could ever know. I want to continue to manifest the energy I both project and receive when working with youth, because I know it is valuable. I decided during my junior year that I am hoping to spend the rest of my life working with young people, perhaps as a teacher or content creator, among endless other possibilities.

In Tucson, we were given the opportunity to speak with media production class in which many college students were working with preteens and teens. I’ve taught a workshop at the Tompkins County Public Library to tweens and teens for six semesters, and thought deeply about my major takeaways from this experience before our meeting with the cass. Here they are for you.

Five Tips for College Students Working with Tweens and Teens

  1. You’re not that much older than them — use that as a strength, not a weakness.

  2. Ask them for feedback. Kids are given so few opportunities to craft their own experiences. Let this be one experience in which they have agency.

  3. It’s not your kids’ jobs to educate you about their identities. Maybe you are working with a teen who is queer or trans or indigenous or Jewish and you’ve never met someone else with that identity. That’s ok, but you have to do your research. Look online, talk to your friends and professors, and don’t perpetuate misconceptions that are avoidable.

  4. It’s good to keep kids on track, but never sacrifice bonding and community for another minute filmed or paragraph written.

  5. BE VULNERABLE. If you want your kids to be honest and open about their stories, they deserve to have you set an example.

(A version of this post is also published on my blog)