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Empowering Youth - Embracing Opportunities for Successful Empowerment - July 2004

Recently I attended a conference that happened to take place on "Take Your Kid to Work Day". My 7-year-old daughter, Deena, brought home a note from school indicating the date and inviting parents to take their kids to work that day. I was pleased that I was scheduled to attend a conference and that it was relatively close to home, so it might work out for me to take her along and only have her miss the one day of school.

The issue, however, was that in addition to exhibiting, this time I was hired to speak at the conference, so I would be facilitating a two-hour training. I didn't worry about Deena's ability to help out as an exhibitor, but what about a speaking engagement?

I talked to Deena about my concerns and the expectations I would have for any assistant during a conference session, and she felt confident she could meet my expectations. Additionally, it was to be a rather small conference with most-likely very affirming, patient and youth-centered participants, and the session was only two hours, not a half or full-day. So I figured, if there was ever a conference to attempt a "Take Your Kid to Work Day", this was the one.

Ultimately, it was an excellent experience for everyone involved. Deena was a valuable assistant in setting up the exhibit, as she was able to roll exhibit suitcases on her own and hold open doors for me as I carried in the heavy items. I never realized how much I needed an assistant until I had one! And in the preparation for our sectional, we had only a short time between sessions, so I really appreciated her help then as well. She was the ultimate professional for the two-hour period, allowing me to do my job, while helping participants with needed training supplies. And of course, the conference participants were exactly the positive, generous people I assumed they would be.

I learned several empowerment lessons from this experience:
  • Adults need to take advantage of opportunities that help empowered young people experience success;
  • Some situations pose less "risk" than others, so are prime opportunities to stretch youth and adult perception of a young person's capability; and
  • Inviting youth to participate in an experience different from their usual day broadens their perspective of the world and their future.
Of course, there are usually unexpected bonuses. During the conference, Deena participated in an art project facilitated by a talented Native American woman, gaining a new skill as well as a better understanding of a culture different from her own. And when I asked her what was the best part of "Take Your Kid to Work Day"? The swimming pool? The conference food? The exhibit candy? The fun art project?

Believe it or not, she said it was the two hour ride in the truck to and from the conference. Why? Because we got to talk to each other the whole time.

This summer, I encourage you to find a way to empower a young person. Engage them in something you are doing. Take a risk. And reap the benefits...

Embracing Opportunities for Successful Empowerment
©2004 Kelly Curtis - President, Empowering Youth

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