Create an environment that nurtures self-exploration in conjunction with community-building. Hold space for youth to learn about, share, and celebrate both their similarities and differences. When needed, connect youth to other resources that may further support this work.

Background and Strategies

Identity formation is a critical piece of Positive Youth Development and Youth Voice. For teens in particular, beginning to understand their relationship to themselves, others, and the world has significant future implications (Tsang, Hui, and Law, 2012 or Arnold, 2017). 

Furthermore, youth of color, LGBTQ+ youth, young women, and other young people who may experience marginalization because of their identities can benefit from self-exploration in community with peers they can relate to (citation needed).

With this in mind, adult educators should work to intentionally build opportunities for positive identity formation and community building that supports the unique identities, needs, and lived experiences of diverse youth. This can involve both the creation of safer spaces for marginalized youth, as well as larger group programs that educate and celebrate diversity.

Marginalized youth in particular thrive when their adult educators have similar identities and lived experiences. Youth organizations should work toward forming a staff that reflects the youth they’re serving. When their own identities and experiences do not reflect those of the youth they work with, adults must acknowledge this openly, self-educate, and build culturally-aware trusting relationships accordingly. Bringing in guest facilitators and referring youth to other relevant identity-based resources may be particularly helpful in these situations as well.

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