March 24, 2023
– By Adrian Holloway –
“Kids these days are a different breed. They are never satisfied. They lack motivation.”
Do any of these statements sound familiar? I’m sure many of us have heard and maybe even said these phrases.
Whether these phrases are true or not is all a matter of perspective. If the lens through which you look suggests the answer is yes, then what are you willing to do to bridge this perceived gap?
It was a Thursday evening in the summer of 2012 at Powell Chapel United Methodist in the small community of LaFayette, Alabama. For many years Vacation Bible School at various community churches was the highlight of our summers, but this year something seemed different. I noticed that fewer and fewer youth saw many benefits in attending the traditional VBS.
As I began to discuss with others, we realized that what was once the highlight for those of us a bit older was of little to no importance to that group of youth currently known as Gen Z. That’s right, Gen Z, the first group to grow up in the digital era, were under-impressed with “the way we’ve always done things.” Imagine that! That warm Alabama evening was the day we recognized that our youth wanted, and perhaps needed, more. Thus, P.H.Y.R.E. (pronounced fire), People Helping Youth Reach Excellence, was born.
The mission of P.HY.R.E. is to instill integrity, promote effective communication, facilitate scholastic achievement, and assist our youth on their journey toward excellence by nurturing their basic needs, encouraging individuality, and establishing a firm academic foundation.
Do it alone, do it afraid, and just do it because our youth need what YOU have to offer.
We kicked off the program in 2012 with our first county-wide Back to School Bash. At the bash, P.H.Y.R.E. and its partners give out free school supplies and food, and there are lots of games and music for the youth to enjoy. It’s turned into such a fun way to engage students as they prepare to return to school, a place where they’ll spend most of their daily lives. According to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, school is the second-most place where youth spend their time (coming in after sleep). With so much of their time spent at school, it’s important that they feel prepared for the upcoming year and have all the tools they need.
P.H.Y.R.E. established a partnership with the local school district and quickly began engaging the youth. We adopted the philosophy “don’t wait for the youth to come to us, we’ll go to them.” We began offering after-school programs, free tutoring both inside and outside of the schools, free meals, and the support of teachers and staff. Through these efforts, we established rapport and built relationships.
We have maintained this relationship/partnership for over a decade. As this relationship has grown, P.H.Y.R.E. has not only addressed educational needs, but also physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial needs. We’ve continued to host the county-wide Back to School Bash and now offer multiple scholarships to rising seniors.
You may be wondering; how can I make this type of impact in my community? I am so glad you asked. Just asking that question is an important place to start and a sign you care. It’s simple: if you see a need, do what you can to meet the need. How do you know what is needed? Ask your target audience, and then listen to what they have to say. Where do you start? Simply put, just get started! What if no one sees or supports the vision? Do it alone, do it afraid, and just do it because our youth need what YOU have to offer.
Yeah, kids these days may seem to be of a different breed. The world is different; our youth must be different. EMBRACE IT. They are never satisfied…perhaps we are too easily satisfied. They lack motivation…is it lack of motivation or is it depression and anxiety? According to the PEW Research Center, 70% of youth ages 13-17 see depression and anxiety as major problems across gender, racial and socioeconomic lines.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.President Theodore roosevelt
If you’re truly interested in engaging our youth, I encourage you to do away with the idea of “how we’ve always done it.” Allow space for open, honest, safe, non-judgmental dialogue. Remain open-minded and solutions-oriented and allow the youth to be their authentic selves. This will allow the opportunity to establish rapport and build solid relationships, which is the catalyst for making a lasting impact on the lives of youth. The phrase coined by Theodore Roosevelt has proven to be true. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The time is now to show our youth how much we care. They need us like never before.