5 Things I've Learnt working with At Risk Youth

We are often so ‘busy’ rushing around filling our lives with what absolutely has to be done that sometimes we forget to focus on what is really important to us, what truly brings us joy and fulfilment of purpose.  For each of us that something is unique and there are certainly no right and wrong answers here.  People often find this concept challenging because unlike so much of what we do with our time, this is not a box ticking exercise.

12 months ago I moved from working in the corporate world to the Not for Profit world joining the Youth Encounter Ministries Trust team, a registered charity working with youth in New Zealand, using dirt bikes as the tool to connect with youth (11 – 24 years) including disadvantaged/at risk youth and by integrating learning modules and therapy sessions teaching youth to make positive decsions for themselves and their futures and enabling them to choose how they interact with their wider community. 

What are 5 things I’ve learnt about working with youth?


I have learnt what it means to truly have fun in the workplace.  In our ‘responsible’ years we so often forget about the importance of having fun whilst doing what we do.  Making sure we are enjoying doing what we are doing.  Surrounding ourselves with people who bring out the best in us and in so doing helping us to uphold our beliefs and values.  This year has reminded me to take a leaf out of the life book  our youth operate from.  Watching  and being a part of the interactions and learnings they have encountered in our programmes and camps keeping fun at the core of it all has been empowering, challenging and immensely rewarding

Tech Savvy

The need to be able to firstly understand what they are referring to, but also be able to join in the conversation makes understanding the speak essential.  Not that I have this mastered yet, but don’t tell them that.  Whilst we're on the note of communication, I have also learnt not to expect a response to an email, voice mail, Facebook Message … they are not being rude or disrespectful, quite simply a misalignment between my perception of the expected norm and theirs.  Do not assume that no response means no to your query!

Community & Peer Pressure

Before we can even begin to unpack the burdens and misconceptions our at risk youth are carrying with them we need to appreciate the impact the community they are surrounded with have on them, what they see and hear every day from friends, family and mentors affects how they see the world.  Where they see themselves fitting in and what role they can fulfil can sometimes be totally overwhelming for them.

Self Belief

So many of our youth, especially the at risk youth we have come through our programmes have developed a limiting belief of themselves and their abilities.  The road they are now journeying through the teenage years suddenly becomes fraught with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  They have limited reserves of their own self worth to draw on despite being some of the most incredible young people I have ever met. 


The sense of achievement and self fulfilment of being part of helping our youth understand the process of becoming stronger and self confident, becoming empowered, and thus showing them they have the power to control their own life is truly one of the most humbling experiences I have encountered.

At Youth Encounter we help youth to start with themselves first, a lesson we ought to work on in our adult years too. 

By Tracey Christian


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