Summer is here! Young people are out and about in the community to enjoy a few months of summer vacation or finding summertime employment. For service providers, summer can mean increased youth engagement. Many service providers ramp up their youth-focused activities during the summer to address social problems and respond to disparities in community services. Children and young adults engage with multiple systems in our communities, ranging from community service providers, schools, neighborhoods, peers, and families. Each of these systems has a strong influence on young people as they approach adulthood. Summer is a great time to engage young people and for service providers to ask themselves: How can we bring together and use multi-systems in our communities to ensure young people have the resources they need to make healthy and safe choices?
It is important to look at how youth programs focused on intervention services such as drug/alcohol use, gang activity, bullying, dating violence, etc. are developed. Too often these programs are designed without the input of young people. Adults in the community will observe a problem, apply for funding or financial support, and move forward with developing a new youth program. When the program is not as successful as was hoped, service providers and organizations are left wondering what happened. Young people are experts in their experience and add value to every step of the process of program development. Youth understand what activities and initiatives will resonate with their peers. They know what messaging will push youth away from a program and what will draw them in.