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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Patel: The importance of building and sustaining strong relationships with youth

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With a shared goal of creating an education system that enables all children to learn, lead and thrive in our world, we must stay connected to those who are directly affected — our youth. There is a rising generation of change-makers and leaders in Indianapolis who know exactly what they want when looking ahead. Each of them has bold dreams, passions and clear visions within their hearts. This signals an even greater need for continued and meaningful relationship building between both youth and adults in our community. 

Over the past few months, Teach For America Indianapolis has had the pleasure of hosting two student interns from Victory College Prep Academy — seniors Davionté Thornton and Milaun Huskey. Not only have they been able to utilize this opportunity for their personal leadership and professional development, but their experience has attested to the importance of building these profound connections.

In speaking with them recently, I felt proud of my team in supporting these young people, but I felt even more strongly that young people, when asked, will be clear about their interests in what they need to attain those dreams they have set.

Their goals included enjoying their careers, retiring early and living a free life. I became deeply moved by their vulnerability and the benefits of being intentional about forming these bonds with the younger generation. Youth motivation, promotion of learning, and stronger social and interpersonal skills are just a few of these benefits, but even greater, these relationships prove to be symbiotic — interactions that are mutually beneficial in learning for both the youth and the adult. 

“I think that it’s a positive thing for the younger and the older to learn from each other, because it can give another perspective that adults are not necessarily used to hearing,” Thornton said. “The younger generation can give insight, because there are differences in generations and the way people think, and it’s important to know how another person may think when making decisions.” 

Youth need love and a space to open up. Together, we have to create conditions for youth to share their plans for the future. But we also have to be ready to listen and open to learn from the younger generations.

“The younger voice matters as much as the older voice does,” Husky said. 

This is a defining moment for a generation of students and our country. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put equity and the needs of our children at the center of those spaces that affect them. When we support and uplift the voices of young people, we learn how to better support their futures and they not only feel heard, but they feel prepared to lead lives of choice and opportunity in a changing world.  

Amar Patel serves as executive director at Teach For America Indianapolis, an education nonprofit organization that recruits, supports and develops diverse, equity-minded leaders that drive change in our education system, starting in the classroom. Teach For America is working toward increasing student achievement in Indianapolis while advocating for policies and practices that support family and student success.

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