Characteristics of successful adults in youth-adult partnerships

Learn about successful adults and their characteristic traits to make youth-adult partnerships succeed.

Youth-adult partnerships are an intentional approach where youth and adult work together for the success of a program, and where youth have equal say in the development, execution and evaluation of a program. Youth-adult partnerships are where adults want youth to succeed and learn life skills that will advance them in their growth and development. Michigan 4-H Youth Development puts an emphasis on this concept through their guiding principles, “Youth are actively engaged in their own development; and youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.”

In order to fully engage in a youth-adult partnership, adults must let go of any stereotypes they have of youth, take risks and allow youth to make mistakes, stumble and sometimes fail. At the same time, they must be willing to celebrate success, set aside their own need for recognition and find satisfaction in watching the youth succeed.

There are certain characteristics adults must develop to make them successful in implementing partnerships with youth. It does not take a superhero—it doesn’t even take a special person. It takes someone who is willing to support youth, take a step back and watch youth flourish.

The following are a few characteristics of an effective adult in youth-adult partnerships:

  • Willing to learn
  • Have group facilitation skills
  • Patient and flexible
  • Have the ability to encourage and motivate others
  • Have an open mind and willing to learn from a youth
  • Have good verbal communication
  • Have good listening skills
  • Relate well to youth
  • Be a good role model
  • Enable others to act, no matter what their age
  • Ability to work with others collaboratively
  • Willing to take risk
  • Ability to think outside the box
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Willing to be vulnerable

The list above requires no advanced degrees or superhero skills. It requires adults that are passionate about developing youth. It is about allowing today’s youth to be today’s leaders rather than tomorrow’s leaders. It is about working side-by-side with youth that are willing and ready to lead a program, group or organization.

Michigan State University Extension offers trainings for youth and adults who would like to see their organization adopt the youth-adult partnership philosophy, and training for adults that would like to improve their skills above. If you are interested in learning more about these trainings, contact the leadership civic engagement work team at

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