When many look at the youth of today, we seem to think that they are not as capable as they really are. We say things like “They’re too young,” or “It’s just easier to do it myself,” or “They just can’t seem to get organized.” We are doing them a great disservice.
The youth of today lack the ability to be great leaders, mostly because we don’t give them the opportunity to learn. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to watch some great young men and women age 13-15 really step up to the plate and lead. Are they the most proficient, No! Youth leadership is often a messy process and sometimes we need to let them be uncomfortable to force them to make a move. Why should they do anything if they can just let us provide for them?
In EMS we are often trying to protect them from some of the horrors that we see, but is this reality? These young men and women will be leaving the nest and heading out to the world, without a clue. Providing opportunities for them to grow; to see some of life’s horrors and learn how to mitigate a situation, while we still provide them some guidance and the safety that we’ve learned from experience is they only way they can learn.
EMS has always had issues with recruiting, but there are avenues available to help us entice the young to a life of service. The Boy Scouts have a program called Explorers that allow youth 14-21 the opportunity to explore various career paths. Police have done programs, fire, but very few EMS agencies provide this learning opportunity. Perhaps we could use this to teach them to make safe decisions, prevent illness or injury and maybe even consider helping others in a career in pre-hospital medicine.
The National Ski Patrol also has a great program, the Young Adult Patroller program or YAP. These young men and women, ages 15 until completion of high school are taught the exact same programs, both EMR level first aid and toboggan transportation as the adults. They learn side by side with the adults and have mentors there to provide experience. Make no mistake, the YAP program doesn’t develop junior patrollers! They develop fully qualified and capable patrollers, who happen to be young.
Think about the benefits to these youth. They learn lifesaving skills that they may be able to use to save a loved one throughout their lives. They learn responsibility. They learn that caring for others provides self-benefit. They learn that being responsible adults sometimes means putting others first.
They also learn a skill that can help them land a college job. Working in EMS can bring in a meager income, and can allow them time to do homework between calls. The NSP’s YAP program can also provide them a place to enjoy skiing during a time that many cannot afford the sport. After all, beer is more important at that age. These two programs give them an opportunity to sober up and help others.
Consider becoming involved with today’s youth to help develop them into the responsible adults of the future to ensure that there are people there to provide care for us during our old age.