Building Positive Community Essential In Youth Development

By: Jeremy Brown

With local schools officially in session and most regional universities starting classes this week, I wanted to touch on a principle I’m passionate about: building positive community.

Developing a community that builds you up and brings out the best in you is essential in all walks of life, but particularly so in the developmental years of middle school through college-aged students. Finding your footing can be difficult and acceptance is at the forefront of human’s psychological needs. Navigating those waters as students, when your brains aren’t fully developed, yet you’re experiencing emotion at a fuller level than you ever will, is a tall task. However, it is a challenge of paramount importance in shaping your personal journey.

I was fortunate enough to have adult mentors stress the significance of positive community with me during my developmental years. Getting plugged in with like-minded peers within organizations such as Youth Resources, Young Life and my church was extremely instrumental in shaping the person I am today. Of the many principles I’ve come to adhere to through the years, these are two community-based pieces of wisdom imprinted on my brain:

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” – Anonymous 

“You are the average of the five people you most associate with.” – Tim Ferriss

Are the people you’re walking closest with in life building you up toward a better future? What is the result of your equation if you’re the average of the five people you most associate with? If you don’t like the answers to those questions, chalk it up as a strong indicator that your community needs some remodeling. If you’re encouraged by your answers, keep investing in those folks. Iron sharpens iron.

For those starting or returning to college, I direct this encouragement most emphatically to you: The community you build in college is incredibly influential to your academic, social and overall experience. Whether you’re in a new city or staying home, your slate is clean, you’ve never had more independence and the importance of your navigation of relationships cannot be overstated.

I love the advice our Executive Director Laura Ferguson often gives our students, so in closing I’ll echo it to all our friends in school this year: Take initiative and explore things you’re interested in, and then identify a couple specific passion points and invest deeply there.

Taking those action steps will be essential in helping develop friends groups and support systems that build you toward a positive future.

Jeremy Brown is the TEENPOWER, Communications and Special Events Coordinator at Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana.