By youth engagement, we mean “the concept and practice of meaningfully engaging youth in decisions that affect them, their peers, and their communities. Youth engagement ensures that young people become an integral part of the work of organizations and communities and that their voices help shape the future.”

JCSH Youth Engagement Toolkit, 2013, pg. 7

Youth Engagement

As children age into adolescence, their need for support remains consistent, although the types of support they need and places they seek it may change. NICWA addresses these needs through youth empowerment programming with a positive youth development approach. In a deliberate way, we build on the internal strengths of youth to ensure our research, community programming, and efforts toward systems reforms are guided by their insight and lived experience.

The positive youth development approach we use is intended to support young people in a way that encourages leadership, positive identity, community involvement, and healthy relationships. Positive youth development “seeks to promote a variety of developmental competencies that young people need at individual, social, and system levels to become productive, contributing members of society. Positive Youth Development adopts a holistic view of development by emphasizing the strengths, resources, and potentials of youth, and holds positive expectations regarding young people’s growth and development and the contributions they can make to society” (Iwasaki, Springett, Dashora, McLaughlin, McHugh, & Youth 4 YEG team, 2014, pg. 321).

Our commitment to focusing on youth extends to our governance and staffing. Two seats on NICWA’s board of directors are reserved for youth board members, who have all of the same rights and responsibilities as adult members.