Youth Engagement Toolkit

Starting A Group

If you plan on working with a school, first get through School Red Tape to make sure your program or group will have the support it needs to succeed.

Recruiting Students:

  • Create excitement among students

Establish the group with a kick off event that is available to the students and is fun and interactive. Also give-a-ways are incredibly important to youth. People love free stuff and the better the stuff the better the interest that is drummed up. During the event ask students to join your group.

Forming the Group:

  • Have a clear goal and set up a structure, bylaws, and materials etc. that will guide the group in its function.

The students then need to agree upon a set of group norms to follow in order to be a part of the group. If they create the norms they will police themselves.

Next, once you have the students they need to establish an area to focus on. Once an area is chosen, it is helpful to stop and figure out what the end solution is and make sure it is achievable and not too big a goal to start out. It may take several brainstorming sessions to reach consensus on your focus.

Possible Pitfall: Take the advice of someone who has worked as a youth group leader for nearly a decade

"One mistake I see agencies make is that they don't connect with students on their level. They try to connect with youth the same way they would connect with parents and the wave lengths are just totally different. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!"

Reasons why Youth get Involved: (from Wisconsin FACT)

  • Have concern for the issue
  • Learn more about the issue
  • Join friends who are members
  • Gain skills to leadership
  • Spend free time productively
  • Do something for the community
  • Meet other teens
  • Have seen family member helping others
  • Desire to achieve success
  • Resume' building for college or job applications
  • Gain status among peers
  • Know they can make a difference
  • Satisfy community service requirement for church or volunteer group
  • Issue has impacted them personally

Reasons why Youth Don't Get Involved: (from Wisconsin FACT)

  • No one asked them
  • Don't know how to become involved
  • Lack of time
  • Feel they can't make the commitment
  • Family or job commitment
  • Lack of education on the issue
  • Lack of interest on the issue
  • Uncomfortable with the issue
  • Don't know what they will gain
  • Don't feel needed
  • Lack of transportation
  • Lack of adult support
  • Don't think it is cool
  • Don't want to join alone
  • Feel they won't make a difference

The JEL program in Iowa has some great suggestions in their JEL Chapter Guide on starting a group and keeping it going.