Growing up in Carson City, Nevada, allowed me to perceive the community I now cherish from various angles. At the age of 6, I harbored a dream of becoming a Plastic Surgeon, aspiring to enhance people's beauty (as stated in my first-grade yearbook quote). However, as I write this now, my journey took a different path, one that I wouldn't change for anything. The choices and decisions that have brought me to my current position, as a Juvenile Outreach Specialist for the Carson City Juvenile Services since December 2022, have fueled my growth in working with at-risk youth. I genuinely love what I do—engaging with juveniles facing issues at school or in probation settings, conducting "change" conversations with them, encouraging reflection on their choices, and discussing ways to move forward.
Working with at-risk adolescents has honed my ability to connect with them by viewing the world through their perspectives and meeting them where they are. Today, the decisions made by kids have deeper layers beyond the dismissive notion of "kids being kids." In my view, youth often turn to substance use or other high-risk behaviors because they lack guidance during crises. Over the years, working with many young adults has led me to believe in the power of the three C’s for positive change: Community, Compassion, and Consistency. These three elements can shape a perspective that makes a lasting impact on the next generation. However, the term "next generation" often carries negative connotations in our society, casting a shadow over children. In our chosen line of work to support this newer generation, we must challenge our perspectives continually, making strides for them as they look up to us and observe our every move.
Community plays a crucial role in uplifting young adults. The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," resonates with many of us. Originating from an African proverb, it emphasizes the need for collective effort to provide a safe, healthy environment for children. Everyone, including the kids, must be part of the discussion. Frustrations arise when the juveniles I work with express feeling unheard by parents, teachers, or law enforcement. While significant resources are dedicated to youth, redirecting time, money, and efforts toward amplifying the voices of the voiceless could be transformative. Children bring fresh perspectives to our society, and without them at the table, we miss opportunities to make monumental impacts.
Compassion is essential for the decision-makers at the table to connect with the youth on their level. Drawing from my experience working at a summer camp, I observed children who had faced adversity in their lives find solace in a safe environment. One particular incident involving a girl caught with marijuana highlighted the power of compassion. While consequences are necessary, extending grace in this instance allowed her to stay at camp, ultimately leading to a positive change in her life. Compassion involves sitting with kids in their messiness, making a tangible difference.
Consistency is a term we both love and hate, often associated with New Year's resolutions. However, this next generation needs unwavering consistency. Studies show that consistent rule-following and discipline make a difference in short-term and long-term child rearing. The consistency I advocate for is a steadfast presence in the lives of the youth. Kids observe our actions closely, and our consistent presence creates stability in their unstable lives. Even those who go unnoticed or hide in the crowd require someone to consistently show up. Making a difference is as simple as showing up consistently, demonstrating that someone cares and is willing to be there, no matter what.
With these perspectives, I hope to continue growing and gaining enlightenment from everyone I encounter, especially the youth. As I conclude this article, I believe my 6-year-old self would be proud of where I am today, content with not becoming the surgeon I once envisioned. Going back to my first-grade quote, I now see that I am making people beautiful by helping them discover their inner light and understand how truly special they are.