Engaging youth that do not have easy access to programming, live in rural areas, on-reserve, or that are typically thought of as being ‘at-risk’ (or ‘at-promise’, as we like to say) takes a different approach than doing programming geared towards youth who are easily engaged.
Making programs and projects accessible to under-engaged youth takes flexibility in program planning, attention to logistics around safe spaces and transportation, inclusivity and attention to differing learning styles, as well as setting clear expectations of participants and organizers. In order to make it work, organizers also need to be aware of and responsive to local knowledge. From making your programming relevant to the experiences of youth, to ensuring that the role models or leadership in your programming are culturally affirming and representative of the participants, planning outside-of-the-box for this cohort is the key to success.
As with all responsible programming, addressing barriers is a core part of planning and measures should be consciously taken to make all activities inclusive to all youth. For under-engaged youth, mitigating these barriers should garner significant attention. These barriers could be around making sure there is accessible child care, paying attention to how washrooms are segregated, carefully planning the sleeping arrangements in order to make spaces safe, and paying attention to the gender of your participants, and what this will mean for your facilitator needs. Again, it is also important to make sure that role models in your programming are culturally affirming, and that the leadership in the programming is representative of the participants.