The top 5 things I know about vulnerable youth

Jill Wyatt at the Pushing the Limits III conference in Calgary on October 30, 2014.
Jill Wyatt at the Pushing the Limits III conference in Calgary on October 30, 2014.

What’s changing? Working together to connect natural supports to vulnerable youth. This was the topic of the third installment of a conference series led by United Way called Pushing the Limits. Speaking on the topic and engaging local and provincial leaders made me step back and consider what I know to be true about supporting vulnerable young people.

As a former principal of three different high schools here in Calgary, I have gained ample insight into what vulnerability is and how it can cripple a young person’s chances of launching successfully into adulthood.

Here is my list of the top 5 things I know to be true about the most vulnerable assets in our community, and ways that all of us can step up and make a difference.

  1. Vulnerable youth need people to look up to, people who care about them, people who will last in their lives and people who believe in them, despite all odds.
  2. When working with vulnerable youth, conflict is inevitable in some form; patience, suspension of judgment, and love are important characteristics in the resolution. Working with vulnerable youth and their families requires an approach, not just a program.
  3. Vulnerable youth are the same as all youth, no matter whether they live, with or without their families close to them; they yearn to be a significant part of their family, to live in and be loved by their natural support system.
  4. Remind yourself that vulnerability is an equal opportunity employer. Any one of us can find ourselves suddenly thrust into a position of weakness, illness, unemployment or family strife in the blink of an eye. Having resilience, confidence and a natural support network to draw upon is exactly what you would need to get through, and it is also what you can help a vulnerable young person learn to create for themselves too.
  5. We can all be significant in the lives of vulnerable young people. Inspiration to them comes in many forms and you can be powerful in an individual’s life. You don’t have to sign up, join a program or volunteer in a formal way. Just look around you and find a young person in whom you can invest. Give of yourself in a small or big way that will help build the natural support system of friends and mentors that our young people desperately need.

Jill Wyatt is the Vice President of Community Investments and Collaborations at United Way of Calgary and Area. Jill is passionate about community building and is a driving force behind changing social conditions and creating opportunities for individuals, families and communities.