5 Important Lessons I Learned As A Youth Worker 

youth worker

Being a teenager in the 21st century sucks. You are bombarded with influencers, toxic beauty standards, and an overload of information, and you’re also in the growth stage. The time to figure out where you belong and what to do next after high school. You’re trying to figure out all of this while being bombarded with negative stereotypes. 

As someone who has worked with teenagers, I’ve constantly had to self-reflect on my biases. Many of these negative stereotypes towards teenagers, which the media often portrays, aren’t simply true. And today, May 5, is “Thank A Youth Worker Day.” I want to thank the teenagers who taught me more than I imagined.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned as a youth worker: 

1. People come and go 

It’s still difficult for me to absorb this lesson despite the countless times I’ve witnessed people posing as real friends. Fortunately, some of the teenagers I’ve worked with know this. Whenever they witness a friendship breakup, they shrug and say they’ll let it go since there are new people to meet. 

2. Chase your dreams and ambitions 

Throughout my time as a youth worker, I’ve noticed a lot of teens continuously hustling toward their dreams. Some wanted to become professional dancers and enrolled in more classes at the dance studio or auditioned for admission to a professional ballet school. Others wanted to be teachers and took on extra babysitting opportunities. Many youths I’ve met conversed about their big dreams, which often inspired me.

3. Screw what the media portrays

Since I’ve worked with a diverse group of youth, some had to go through situations I’ve never experienced. For example, some youth have experienced homelessness, whereas others have had to learn to navigate a boarding school independently without their parents. 

However, the media rarely portrays these experiences, and as a result, teenagers who often go through these experiences are pushed to the edge of society’s margins. Their emotions are often ignored. 

4. The world isn’t fair

Throughout my experience working with youth, I’ve realized how unfair the world is. Some bullies continue to get praised by the adults around them, whereas the youth who experience bullying are continuously ignored. The reality is that the world doesn’t always reward people the way you expect. 

5. Peer pressure continues to affect all youth 

I’ve worked with teenagers from families with different income levels. Although their experiences and privileges greatly differed, one factor remained consistent: peer pressure and mental health. 

Research shows that 85% of high schoolers often feel peer pressure, as their friends often tell them to partake in activities they may not have been comfortable with. As a result, teenagers may notice an impact on their mental health. 

When working with teenagers, I was continuously struck by my conversations with them. We talked about topics that I rarely will converse about daily, including social issues, housing, traveling, and tourism. From these conversations, I gained further insight and learned more about different perspectives. 

Therefore, on ‘Thank a Youth Worker’ day, I also want to thank the teenagers who taught me unique facts about the world and were brave enough to share their stories with me. I also want to express gratitude for meeting all of them, as they have inspired me to continue doing my work.  

And last but not least, I wish all of you youngsters good luck on navigating your adolescent years. Although I know it won’t be easy, you can do it!

Resources to Support Youth: 

There are plenty of resources to support youth. For housing, visit Covenant House and Urban Peak. For others, visit Power Unit, AYA Youth Collective, and Youth Health Network.

Featured image via Pexels



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