Whitney Houston may have said it best when she claimed, "I believe the children are the future."
As clichéd as that may sound, it is the absolute truth. Today is International Youth Day, and today should be the day we really keep the generation after us in mind.
We all lead by example, and we must continue to provide a positive example for future generations to aspire to. Aside from that, we have to actually get involved, encourage and inspire our youth.
I remember growing up in Harlem in the early 90s, and while it wasn't the best neighborhood at the time, my family had me involved in extracurricular activities after school.
You never know when you'll spot the opportunity to transform the future of young person, but if you find yourself in a position to provide guidance, do not shy away from it.
For me, personally, going to boarding school changed my life and my perspective on the world.
I had every type of service made available to me, from personal tutors to after-school clubs and career counselors, all of which played a major role in preparing me for my future.
While the thought of going to boarding school was daunting at first, I learned responsibility at a young age, which prepared me for adulthood, an invaluable trait that never goes unnoticed at any stage of your life.
Here are five ways we can all get involved in shaping the children of the future:
1. Start a college fund right away.
This may depend on your income, but it is something that we, as young Millennials, need to be aware of when we start a family.
Education is key; it's what will ensure the youth has a better future. It can be an extra expense, especially dealing with high rents and increased MTA fares, but a few dollars today can mean less money your young one will have to borrow in the future.
Let's face it: Student loans suck. There's no real nice way to put it.
We need to prepare the youth for a clear a financial slate, as opposed to setting them up for debt.
2. Extracurricular activities are a must.
The ability to learn social skills can be hard for some, but if we invest the time in signing up our kids for extra curricular activities at a young age, they can learn early on.
By doing this, we are providing them with the opportunity to interact positively with others.
I was involved in football, the student yearbook club, student ambassadors and other extracurricular activities growing up, and I must say it taught me how to be a leader, be social and work well with a team.
3. Take advantage of services in the community.
Sometimes, you have to make the best of what you can, and sometimes, depending on your income, age or location, you may not have the best services made available to you.
However, that should not discourage you; there are plenty of reputable of non-profits in urban/low-income areas that provide social services, academic support and career workshops.
Here in New York, in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, we are fortunate to have New York City Mission Society, which works closely with the children of Harlem all throughout the year, providing support services to at-risk youth and even helping with résumés and mock interviews.
4. Don't turn a blind eye.
Holding our youth accountable is the best thing we could ever do for them, and they will appreciate us for it later.
Have you ever had that one annoying teacher who held you accountable for every single rule? If so, you know how his or her attention to you and your ability to follow simple rules helped you out later in life.
At almost every stage in life, there are rules that have to be followed. Learning this from the start is a huge benefit.
We have to be able to hold our youth accountable for their actions; if we notice something, we need to speak up and address it with them. By not doing so, we are willfully condoning their poor behavior.
5. Be their biggest supporter.
Support can come from many areas in our lives, but all it takes it one person to really believe in you, and everything will be possible.
Not only does this do well for the kid's self-esteem, it is also a great confidence booster. If we want our youth to be the future one day, we want them to be confident within themselves to be the best they can be.
Obviously, there are other things we can do to invest in the youth of today, but I really believe we are in store for a great future.
When people wonder, worry or even criticize any generation, we must remember who raised it and who had a chance to do something, but didn't.
Whether you are a parent, volunteer, humanitarian or even just a regular person, we all owe it to the kids of today to constantly look out for them, and guide them in the right direction in whatever capacity.
Citations: “I believe deeply in the work of NYC Mission Society and how it changes the lives of our most underserved children in New York City,” said Jean Shafiroff, Board Member and Chair of this spring's Gala. “What I love most about the Mission Society is that all of us involved work together as a family with one strong common mission. We all truly care about the future of the children.” (Black Tie Magazine)