At Camp Fire, youth voice is a part of everything we do. We would not be Camp Fire without it. In order for youth to thrive now, our program staff and volunteers need to know the power of youth voice.

What is youth voice?  The Innovation Center describes youth voice in this way: Youth participation can thus be defined as involving youth in responsible, challenging action that meets genuine needs, with the opportunity for planning and/or decision-making affecting others…. There is mutuality in teaching and learning (between youth and adults) and where each age group sees itself as a resource for the other and offers what it uniquely can provide.

The short version of that is kids and teens want to have a say in the things that directly affect them, whether it be at home, at school or in the world. Youth voice is including youth in decision making as well as allowing them to lead themselves and their peers.

Why is youth voice so important? The Center for Youth Program Quality has found that “youth learn how to make good choices by making choices, not by following directions. Organized activities for youth—whether in an afterschool program, a community center, or somewhere else—can provide wonderful contexts for youth to experience voice, control, and to practice decisionmaking.”

Our highly trained and caring staff are dedicated to creating a pace for youth to make decisions while managing their fear of making mistakes. Camp Fire is a safe place to experience their voice, practice interacting with others, who may not share the same desires or opinions, and learn how to process mistakes and learn from them.

How does Camp Fire champion youth voice? In our programs, we are dedicated to helping youth lift their voice and learn how to make their desires, opinions, and emotions heard in a healthy and meaningful way. This includes using input from youth to plan activities for our programs as well as allowing them to lead their peers in participating. In the youth development world, this is called “shared leadership." At Camp Fire, we simply call it the Camp Fire way.

How can you champion youth voice at home? Youth want to have a say in all aspects of their lives, including at home. Here are a few ways you can champion youth voice outside the classroom:

  1. Put young people in positions of power. Studies show that when youth voice is incorporated in decision making, inclusion & representation is more valued!
  2. Outsource the planning for your next family activity to the kids/teens. Then tell us what surprised you about the results!
  3. Let your kid/teen choose what is for dinner, and let them teach you how to prepare it.
  4. The next time you need someone to represent your family, allow your kid/teen to represent you. This could be at an event, a family gathering, or even your team spokesperson at game night!
  5. Ask your kid/teen what their spark is and let them teach you about it!

Do you have more ideas? Share with us what youth voice means to you!