boys self relianceFostering self reliance in youth, in its many forms, has always been the purpose of my Virtual Academy over the years. How can I, in partnership with the schools, youth centers, colleges, ministries, and families around the world, help young people make a successful transition to self-reliance in the real world?

In virtually every case, that mission requires me to work closely with the adults, most of them professionals, who have chosen to serve those youth. Teachers, counselors, volunteers, ministers, parents, coaches, mentors, youth directors, and all variety of those dedicated people.

The challenge I’ve faced over the years – and still today – is deciding how to constructively respond to would-be professionals and youth workers that lack their own self reliance.

I’ll be the first to admit: this is the kind of mission that easy to get excited about. We were all young once, we remember what that was like (for better or worse), and we see directly the struggles that youth encounter in our cruel, chaotic world today.

Here’s what tends to happen: Adults find my web site, the Virtual Academy, and my programs, or they hear about them from someone else, and they get motivated.

Or, they’ve already decided that helping youth will be their purpose, but they haven’t created a ‘going concern’ with funding, clients, visibility, and those all-important connections to the communities or youth populations they hope to serve. They haven’t reach self reliance in their own endeavors.

Put another way, they haven’t figured out how to partner with individuals and organizations that already demonstrate self reliance. Connecting with self self reliance youthreliance breeds self reliance – from one professional to another, from one organization or institution to another, from adults to youth, from adults to parents.

In my early years doing this, I would often naively agree to help with that self reliance. Or I wouldn’t ask the right questions to assess someone’s self reliance.

Self reliance in youth is varied and complex. It usually involves effective decision making, sufficient income to meet expenses, reliable transportation, a useful support network, commitment to learning and staying curious, and much more.

Self reliance in adults committed to youth development is markedly different. Based on almost 20 years of my own experience, that self reliance must include:
1. A clear vision, purpose, and mission
2. Funding and ongoing income
3. Programs, methods, curriculum, assessments, measures
4. Facilities – centers, classrooms, computers, etc.
5. Qualified, committed, compensated staff
6. Effective leadership, governance, licensing, and ethics
7. Connections to youth development organizations and professionals in the community
8. Intake, on-boarding, referrals, and the means to identify and connect with youth in need
9. ‘Traction’ – demonstrated track record of reaching youth

Unfortunately, most of the people who contact me have only a few of these attributes of self reliance.

Wouldn’t it be excellent to have the time, funding, patience, and staffing to help every visionary who came forward to say, “Hey, I’d like to help youth, and with your Virtual Academy, I think I can get started. Can you show me how to reach self reliance?”