To better understand what teens think about pressingissues rooted in character and civic engagement, as wellas schools and education, BGCA, the Case Foundation,and Nickelodeon developed and commissioned a nationalteen survey that was conducted in the summer andfall of 2011. Results from the “Teens Speak Up” surveyserve as a stark reminder about the challenges that teensface today, while also shining a light on the tremendouspotential that lies within America’s youth.HIGHSCHOOL4outofFIVEagree that going to college isnecessary to achieve career goals.85% of teens agree that school is importantand will help them get a good job.COLLEGEPresident John F. Kennedy once encouraged Americansto ask not what their country could do for them, butwhat they could do for their country. This call-to-actiongave rise to a new generation of engaged youngAmericans who were inspired to contribute to theircommunities. In addition to mobilizing more Americansto become engaged through service, PresidentKennedy’s message also sparked a dialogue in communitiesacross the country about the responsibilities ofcitizenship both at home and for the nation as a whole.Five decades later, President Kennedy’s messageencouraging service, leadership and character developmentamong youth remains just as relevant, ifnot more so, then when it was first issued. Today’steens face a new reality that includes not only challengesshared with those from generations past, butalso new, modern-day issues such as cyberbullying,unemployment, high dropout rates and widespreadobesity. It is imperative that youth, parents, communities,educators, corporations and the government worktogether to identify and implement solutions for teensas our country becomes increasingly dependent on therising generation of active and engaged citizens.In order to give our nation’s teens a voice, Boys & GirlsClubs of America (BGCA) collaborated with the CaseFoundation and Nickelodeon to develop “Teens SpeakUp: A National Youth Survey on Civic Engagement andCitizenship.” The survey was created for and, moresignificantly, conducted by teens in more than 200communities across the country. Nearly 10,000 youngpeople ages 13-18 participated in the survey, whichwas conducted during the summer and fall of 2011.2outbelieve they would learn more in the classroomif they had the opportunity to see how theprinciples they are taught work in the community.STUDENT ROLLofTHREE6outofTENstudents say they have neverconsidered dropping out.6out ofTENout of3FOURsay that people who get together with others and formgroups to influence government policies can have a realimpact.think that it is important to serve as leaders intheir community while they are still teenagers.7 out of 10 feel that what theylearn in high school will be importantlater in life.
BOYS & GIRLS CLUB TEENS CONNECTWITH OTHER COMMUNITY TEENS TOGIVE THEM A VOICECivic Engagement and CitizenshipSCHOOLS AND EDUCATIONClub teen leaders served as ambassadors for theTeens Speak Up national survey by polling teens intheir neighborhoods, shopping malls and schools.The survey process not only challenged Club teens toconduct a major survey in their own communities, italso provided them with the opportunity to give a voiceto young people across the country and to encourageteens to take an active role in understanding andaddressing community needs.BGCA and its partners will use the survey results tospark a candid discussion amongst thought leadersand influencers who have a direct impact on the livesof youth throughout the country. Our goal is to continueto engage teens, civic leaders, community membersand Club staff in important conversations about theseissues to ensure that subsequent generations of America’syouth grow to demonstrate greater levels of civicengagement and good character in their communities.PEOPLE WHO GET TOGETHER WITH OTHERS AND FORMGROUPS TO INFLUENCE GOVERMENT POLICIES CANHAVE A REAL IMPACTDisagree 9.9%Mostly Disagree 14.1%Mostly Agree 36.8%Agree 39.2%I WOULD LEARN MORE IN THE CLASSROOM IF I HADTHE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE HOW THE PRINCIPLES I’MTAugHT WORK IN MY COMMUNITYYes 63.3%No 36.7%MAKING A CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETYNot Important 13.9%Somewhat Important 27.6%Quite Important 34.4%Extremely Important 24.1%BEING A LEADER RIGHT NOW IN YOUR COMMUNITYNot Important 13.4%Somewhat Important 29.3%Quite Important 29.4%Extremely Important 27.9%HOW IMPORTANTARE THE THINGSTHAT YOU LEARN INSCHOOL GOING TOBE LATER IN LIFE?School isimportant andwill help meget a good JOB.Disagree 8.8%Mostly Disagree 8.5%Mostly Agree 20.4%Agree 62.3%Not Important 12.2%Somewhat Important 18.5%Quite Important 24.7%Extremely Important 44.6%Disagree 61.2%Mostly Disagree 17.0%Mostly Agree 9.9%Agree 11.9%Disagree 6.3%Mostly Disagree 8.5%Mostly Agree 25.2%Agree 60.0%GOING TO COLLEGEWILL BE NECESSARYTO MEET MYCAREER GOALS.I HAVECONsIDEREDDROPPING OUTOF SCHOOL.Did YOU KNOW...• According to a Josephson Institute survey, approximately30 percent of American youth are involved in bullying.WORKING TO CORRECT SOCIAL AND COMMUNITYISSUES THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO MENot Important 13.5%Somewhat Important 26.7%Quite Important 33.7%Extremely Important 26.1%• 60 percent of high school students admitted cheatingat least once during a test at school in the last year.• One out of four teens stole something from a parentor other relative.• 82 percent of teens admit that they lied to a parentabout something significant – and 17 percent of allviolent crime involved a youth offender. 1
HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO...Parents/CaregiversCommunicate the importanceof community service andcivic engagement by creatingroutine opportunities toparticipate in service activitiesas a family. Meet with yourchild’s school and Club leadersand ask whether characterbuildingactivities are built intoclassroom or out-of-schooltime programs.Educators/School AdministratorsSchools and educators shouldcontinue to create opportunitiesto integrate service and civiclearning into daily curriculum.Design educational systemsand approaches that focusspecifically on character building.Form creative partnershipswith community agencies thatcan offer these types of activitiesfor young people.Community/Business LeadersInvest money and resources inyour local community organizationsthat provide servicelearningactivities for youngpeople. Create volunteeropportunities for employeesthat help them engage youthin character-building activities.Institute family-friendly leavepolicies for employees at everylevel so that they may attendschool-sponsored activitieswith their children.Youth DevelopmentProfessionalsContinue to promote smallgroupprograms designed todevelop character and civicknowledge. Make sure thatyour programs are social andfun, and encourage communityand parent participation–deepeningrelationshipsamong the adults.Youth MentorsCreate opportunities for ayoung person or group ofyoung people to join you ona community service project.Take a young person to a townhall, school board, or othercommunity meeting so thatthey are exposed to these processesand community leaders.Discuss with your mentees theimportance of being a personof good character and usecurrent events from the newsto start this conversation.TeensJoin extra-curricular activitiesat your school or join yourlocal Boys & Girls Club to gainaccess to enriching characterbuildingand service-learningopportunities. Ask your friendsto join you at the Club. Talkto your teachers and parentsabout issues that you arepassionate about, and askthem to help you organizeservice-learning events and/or activities to engage otherteens from your community.To learn more about theTeens Speak Up survey andresults, visit:www.bgca.org/teensurvey
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSBGCA gratefully acknowledges the Case Foundation andNickelodeon for their invaluable contributions to thedevelopment of “Teens Speak Up.”We also acknowledge the contributions of Peter Levine, Directorof Research and Director of CIRCLE (Center for Information& Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) at the Jonathan M.Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service for his guidance inthe development of this project.ENDNOTE(1) Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, The Ethics ofAmerican Youth: 2008. http://charactercounts.org/programs/reportcard/2008/index.html, accessed January 11, 2012.www.bgca.org/teensurveywww.casefoundation.orgwww.nick.com