I am journaling my way this month through Reclaiming Youth At Risk: Our Hope for the Future by Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg & Steve Van Bockern. Part 3 of 3.
Two weeks ago I related four hazardous environments that work against the well-being of youth at-risk: destructive relationships, climates of futility, learned irresponsibility, and the loss of purpose. Last week I described four needs adolescents must meet to develop self-worth: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity (which the authors call The Circle of Courage).
The authors conclude the book by getting down to the nuts and bolts of the "Reclaiming Environment." It's a mindset of "recover[ing] and redeem[ing]" youth, helping them live a good life, rather than fixating on faults. This environment has four characteristics:
1. Relating to the reluctant. Values are transmitted through relationships. Reclaiming youth at-risk requires adults who are willing to be with them for the long haul-even in discouraging times.
2. Brain-friendly learning. Experiences designed to help youth learn to think for themselves, employing "problem solving, creativity, and field research."
3. Discipline for responsibility. Similar to #2, this is about adults "focus[ing] their efforts on mapping outstructure and values" to help youth make their own good decisions.
4. Courage to care. Youth develop empathy and compassion through experiences that help others.
The whole book is great, but it is this last section that makes me want to put a copy of this in the hands of everyone who works or volunteers with young people. Many books about youth are heavy on theory but lacking in practical direction. Reclaiming Youth At Risk: Our Hope for the Future gives readers what they need to apply the info, while still remaining flexible to multiple situations. The authors, Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg & Steve Van Bockern, are to be commended for their fine job of communicating a wealth of knowledge and wisdom so simply. Recommended!
Ian Eastman, M.A. is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that provides counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups.