Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon! The image lives today as a symbol of engagement. Everyone rolling up their sleeves to do their part. The image exists because a young 19-year-old woman, Mary Doyle Keefe said “yes” to her neighbor Norman Rockwell who asked her to pose for the picture he was creating. For a $10 sitting fee she became the face of a movement, a belief that we were all in this together. Mary Doyle Keefe recently died at age 92, but her legacy remains.
We need more rallying causes to engage everyone, particularly our youth. We need people to have the expectation to “show up” and bring their best. To feel the power and energy that their efforts matter. This need is felt for everyone, but particularly our youth.
Nationally every 26 seconds a high school student drops out of school. What do you think are the opportunities for these individuals who already feel very disconnected? It doesn’t seem very hopeful.
When we are connected to a cause or purpose other than ourselves we feel part of a community. We are engaged. Studies confirm that engaged individuals have lower rates of depression.
The Council on Drug Abuse found youth engagement leads to academic success. Young people from poor families and those with poor social skills who were engaged in a community program or extra curricular activity were 5 times less likely to drop out of school than students who were not involved. The National Center for Education Statistics found students who participate in extracurricular activities have a 15% higher classroom attendance. This participation builds a sense of community where students feel a sense of ownership. Students learn “showing up” is vital to success.
Intellectually this makes sense, but operationally how can it happen? Our institutions, our businesses and our community organizations all need to remember these young populations. These youth won’t “test” their way to success. Real engagement and real leadership creates a level of expectation that they will bring their best. It helps create a culture of success.
The sooner we reach and involve these young people, the more engaged they will be to “show up”. Ultimately it is the difference between building a vibrant world where people share their talents or are allowed to drift away into oblivion of dependence.
What can you do to reach out to a young person in your community? Each one of us needs to be the starting point.