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A lot of people say that youth need things to be exciting if it’s going to interest them. This is probably true. But what excites them?

When I was a preteen and a teen, I got excited when I was able to experience things that weren’t allowed when I was younger. Signing up for elective classes of my choosing, going away to summer camp, and wearing pointe shoes in ballet class all fell into this category.

I got excited when I accomplished something that took a lot of effort. Finally getting my bar routine in gymnastics in one continuous motion was exciting. Being accepted into the Senior Youth Orchestra and playing more difficult music than I’d ever tried before was exciting, too.

I got excited when I was able to make new friends. Student council and after-school clubs were exciting.

I got excited when people recognized my achievements. Best poem in the whole school district? Exciting. Being asked to co-sign a declaration (which I’d written), with my mayor and my congressional representative as a high schooler? Very exciting.

I’ve forgotten most of the parties, the games, the shows. They were fun, which is important too. But not so exciting, in the end.

If you believe that youth are shallow, then those are the sorts of things that will need to be used in order to excite them. But if you think of them as people who are just gaining a broader and deeper perspective of the world, who are gaining new degrees of independence but are uncertain what to do with it, who spend their school days forced to do every kind of work but work that actually has an impact on the world … exciting could mean something different. It certainly did to me.

photo credit: chrisinplymouth via photopin cc