Header image with The Youth Mentor Podcast logo, Season 3, Episode 20 featuring Amanda Rootsey.
Join us in this inspiring episode of The Youth Mentor Podcast as we recap the 2024 Youth Mentor Conference and share with you:

  • some of the things that are working well for youth mentors, speakers, coaches, and educators as we head into 2024;
  • some of the insights that the young people during the conference shared with us;
  • some ideas for how you could get started with supporting young people in your community right now.

This episode includes snippets of conference sessions with Wildlings Forest School co-founder, Nicki Farrell, about providing more space and unstructured time for young people; and the founder of Borderline Camps, Cody Schaeffer OAM, about how their fully-funded camps run for young people and how they create an open, casual, trusting space with their campers. Plus highlights from our teens and mentors!

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Sound bite

[00:00:00] It’s about time.

[00:00:01] Quite often we need to almost let them de school for a little bit.

[00:00:03] and then they also need time to To relax into the space because quite often we’re taking them out of a space where lots has been going on, whether that’s just solving the last maths problem, whether that’s trouble with a, you know, a girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, they need time to just be.

Podcast introduction

[00:00:21] Hello and welcome to the youth mentor podcast. This is your short burst of inspiration tips and research about teens for parents, educators, and mentors. I’m your host, Amanda Rootsey, founder of teen personal development school Shine From Within and coach to incredible youth mentors all over the world. Now I certainly don’t know it all.

[00:00:40] So I interview the experts about what’s going on for youth today. From psychological insights to really practical advice, this is your moment of inspiration, motivation, and a few laughs amidst the ever changing world of teens and tweens. (INTRO) 

main portion of episode

[00:00:54] Hello!

[00:00:57] We just wrapped out 2024 Youth Mentor Conference.. Um, it was three full days of inspiring speakers who all work with young people in extraordinary and ordinary ways or who had a particular skill that they could impart to us, like how to write successful grant funding applications. So I feel very well equipped right now to share with you some of the things that are working well for youth mentors, speakers, coaches, and educators. In this space as we’re heading into 2024. Uh, some of the insights that the young people during the conference shared with us and some ideas for how you could support young people in your community. Right now. It was such a wonderful few days of just getting to connect with each other, connect with people, um, all over the place. 

[00:01:40] We had mostly Ozzy’s joining us and speaking this this year, but, um, we did have some speakers from, uh, the us and South Africa. And. There’s something so special about getting to hang out together with people that kind of do what you do? Um, because I think quite often we can feel really isolated. And even though we’re building community wherever we are, um, often we’re doing that alone, right? 

[00:02:03] Like not many of us. Are really big to have full teams kind of going on behind us and supporting us. So when we get to come together and share, what’s working and what’s not. And, um, what we’re seeing with the young people we’re working with right now and getting to actually ask questions of what young people are experiencing at the moment. 

[00:02:21] It’s always so, so rich and wonderful and, um, Yeah, it’s a beautiful way to kind of end up feeling re-energized so. If you came along to the conference or spoke at the conference, thank you so much for, for sharing your, your time and your wisdom and your, um, your space and energy. With us. Um, Yeah. Okay. 

[00:02:42] So, whether you work with teenagers or little tweens or children already, or whether you’re just feeling really called to give back in some way or hold space for them to continue thriving. And emerging as our future leaders. I hope you’ll find some, some ideas and some support here. I love, I loved it at the end of the conference each year. 

[00:03:02] I’m just so ready to continue to create free resources and all sorts of things to support you to get going. So, yeah, let’s get into this. I’ve um, pulled out snippets from different speakers at the conference too. So there’s a, there’s going to be, there’s going to be a lot here. One of the common threads that emerged out of this year’s 2024 youth mentor conference was that there is so much power in providing lots of unstructured space and time for young people to decompress. Connect with each other play and be silly, take safe risks and chat about how they feeling about the state of the world. What’s going on with their friends, uh, even just their favorite book, their games, you know, that this morning on the, um, the check-ins I host check-ins every Sunday with teams and, um, Two of them, one in Australia, one in the U S we’re just talking about how they are building games. 

[00:03:58] Like. What even is that, how do you build a game? I was not, I was not really following along with what they were talking about, like the specifics of it, but it was so nice to see them connecting about a common interest like that and getting to share what they’re learning and, um, Yeah, how that’s, how that’s going to them. 

[00:04:14] So that was really cool. 

[00:04:15] Sorry. Lots of unstructured space and time. Here’s what Nicki from Wildlings forest school shared with us about this during the conference. 

[00:04:23] It’s about time.

[00:04:24] Quite often we need to almost let them de school for a little bit.

[00:04:27] and then they also need time to To relax into the space because quite often we’re taking them out of a space where lots has been going on, whether that’s just solving the last maths problem, whether that’s trouble with a, you know, a girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, they need time to just be.

[00:04:45] The amount of time children have spent in unstructured play has decreased. And this is for teenagers to this stat by 50%. And again, that doesn’t count the COVID stats. So that’s actually gone up that since the eighties. So my generation unstructured play has been cut in half and more and more time is spent dedicated to indoor activities.

[00:05:05] And unfortunately, the people that don’t have opportunities to play particularly outdoors often demonstrate increased evidence of anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness and narcissism. So, I know that nature play isn’t the, you know, Be all and end all. It’s not the one anecdote that’s going to fix everything.

[00:05:26] But when it’s free and it’s easy to access for most people, it’s one of the things we could try and start with first, I believe

[00:05:34] Nicki is the co-founder of Wildlings forest school. And she shared, sorry, generously about how we can bring more outdoors and nature into our buried work with young people and give so much like behind the scenes info on how they use fire and water and knife skills and all sorts of things with little ones in a safe way while protecting themselves too. 

[00:05:53] It was really fascinating and so fun. Like for me, whenever I’ve seen. Forest school kind of stuff where they’re outdoors and they’re then, you know, carving. Things and playing with knives and fire, and they’re like four or five years old. I just, I can’t, I couldn’t get my head around. Like, how is this? 

[00:06:12] How is this? Okay. Um, and so it was really, really great to, to hear more about how that all works from Mickey and, um, and see how important it is in front of these. Um, for them and the simple things that they can put in place to make it. Um, to make it really safe for them, for the kids as well. Um, and as I said, just before, you know, we do see it in our online group spaces as well, when there’s time and space. Where there isn’t a lot of teaching, but a more casual space for them to share what’s on their mind in that moment. The richest conversations can emerge. Um, and we had some of our teams join us as we do every year at the youth mentor conference. Um, yeah, we had some teams, teams join us for our final sessions, so we could. Chat with them. 

[00:06:56] And here’s what one of the teams said about this. 

[00:07:00] I would say like one thing that I’ve really enjoyed with the online academy especially is just. the different ways that we’ve been able to express ourselves. Like in, even if it’s in our co art classes where you’re kind of chatting and you’re drawing, and then you might get onto a conversation that’s maybe a little bit, you know, below surface level, but it’s unintentional.

[00:07:26] It’s kind of, I guess, going off what Kira said, just making a safe space, but also making a space where we not only trust the mentors, but also trust each other. So kind of having that time to just connect, chat, laugh, do fun things, and then also reflecting.

[00:07:47] Sorry, in case you’ve got a head full of ideas of creative projects. Uh, workshop ideas, et cetera, and feel like you just need to do a little more research together, the right information together, and you need like one more journal article to really bind the latest facts. Uh, and you need to spend another few months tweaking the flow of the content. I hope that listening to staff and to Nikki, um, will help you feel just a little bit more assured that while creating a fun and an educational workshop is wonderful and it’s absolutely still. Space for that. 

[00:08:21] And it’s so needed as well. You can also create more unstructured spaces that bring young people together. And if you do this already, I’d love to hear from you too. So please. Please reach out and let me know how, how you love to work with young people as well. I’m a big believer in blending, both. 

[00:08:38] We run a mixture of educational classes, like movement, creativity, study skills, all sorts of things in our online academy. And we host weekly cohort sessions and weekly check-ins. Um, And it’s often on those kind of cohort sessions where we just sitting together doing our own things. Sometimes people are crocheting. 

[00:08:58] Sometimes they’re coloring in whatever they might be doing. Um, That’s when yeah, those lovely, deeper conversations can emerge sometimes. In our week long teen retreats, we have guest speakers come in and teach stuff, and we have specific activities like a photo shoot day or yoga on the beach that happens at specific times. 

[00:09:17] And we have plenty of space in the weight to make sure that if a conversation. Is emerging and needs more time that we have that capability. Where there’s just a bit more spaciousness, so that. We can go a little bit deeper and we can really personalize. 

[00:09:29] What’s. Um, What’s being discussed and what we, what we talk about, what we cover. Um, and what we all share about, um, yeah. In those in those times, because I mean, It doesn’t matter how much. We set up educational kind of spaces and teach about things. Um, when it’s outside of the schooling system and outside of the curriculum and it’s more life skills, personal development kind of stuff. 

[00:09:54] A lot of the time the teams have, you know, they’ve been through different things and share. Um, share really important lessons that they’ve learned with each other. And so lots of time for that is. He’s um, always good and important and wonderful. 

[00:10:10] Okay. Another theme that stands out for me from the conference was the hope and the joy that this business of creating cool experiences for you. And bringing them together. Can also be a successful business venture. He is what is what Sam said. 

[00:10:26] I think the standout for me personally was that, um, I’ve been a bit surrounded lately by, um, entrepreneurs who are quite obsessed with scaling. And particularly with numbers and revenue, and it was incredibly inspiring to see that some of them, like, big kind of people having huge impact.

[00:10:54] And for me, like, um, Cody and Will this morning as two examples. Impacting thousands of lives with a hugely successful businesses that were so completely devoted to it literally being about the impact and not about profit and to hear that all of Cody’s stuff is just funded so that no child has to pay and we’ll just sold the business for a dollar so he could become a charity.

[00:11:23] Just restored my faith in humanity, particularly like in the entrepreneurial space. Like I think every single person I’ve seen is doing remarkable work with young people. So I always love that. And I love being on a call like this, as Steph said, with people that are just, you know, genuine hearts and wholeheartedly want to do something.

[00:11:42] But I think I often see those people. And then I see kind of entrepreneurs, busy building businesses, making money. And I, it’s, you don’t often see the two come together. And so it was really, I needed that lately. I’ve really needed that. So thank you. 

[00:11:57] I’m a huge advocate and cheerleader for these, in fact, it’s why I created the youth mentor training and why I love it so much. 

[00:12:04] It’s just, it’s so lovely to hear that folks want to support young people in some way, but there’s also this link lingering kind of idea that can come up around how it needs to be something. That we give of ourselves and we shouldn’t receive anything in return. Um, It’s one of those spaces. I think where everyone who gets into it wants to give them what happily volunteer their time to mentor and hold space in some way for teams. And lots of people. 

[00:12:27] Do you know, one of our speakers at the conference this year was from Ray’s foundation and they run wonderful. A wonderful, robust mentoring program. Um, where you can be a volunteer and you’ll get paired up with someone. For a couple of terms and go in each week to, to meet with your team at a school. 

[00:12:44] Um, and they manage all of that. They train you. It’s it’s amazing. So if you’re looking to just volunteer. Once a week and get paired up with someone then. Yeah. Check out Ray’s foundation. Um, but for others, you know, they want to, they want to do this more as their full-time business. They want to get something up and running that, um, where they get to explore that creativity and, um, co-create stuff with the young people in their community and, , have it kind of feed back to them as well. 

[00:13:11] You know, what needs to be sustainable in order to keep being able to do that. We know how needed it is, and we want to be part of the solution and we want to be part of the village. And sometimes the term imposter syndrome, um, Comes up a bit too. And it, it came up a bit during the conference as well. 

[00:13:27] This idea that if we’re not clinical psychologists, then who are we to offer anything and who are we to charge for it? Um, Loss, of course, we want to create spaces that are inclusive. And, um, accessible for everyone, right? So we don’t want to price ourselves. In a way that’s going to mean it’s prohibitive for some young people to get access to the support that we want to provide to right. So there’s, there’s a lot to unpack here. 

[00:13:51] I think when it comes to success charging, should I be a profitable business on. Like for-profit or not-for-profit or a social enterprise. Um, yeah, there’s, there’s so much. And, and what I love about this space and what we heard from different voices during the conference is that. One there’s a need and a want for the work that we do in this preventative space as mentors, facilitators, and coaches. And number two. Is that there are multiple ways to make it sustainable for you to be able to keep showing up. 

[00:14:21] And usually that means getting paid. In some way. We chatted with someone who makes his camps 100% free for all of the students. So cool. Um, I’ll share a little snippet of, yeah, I’ll share a little snippet of this session with Cody Schafer who started borderline camps. Um, you’ll get to hear his passion for the work that he does, how they keep it casual and re and reduce rules to make the teams feel more comfortable. 

[00:14:46] So again, a little less structured, you know, in thinking about how you can. Make it really, um, casual and provide opportunities for the young people to. Uh, connect with each other and, and open up a bit more and connect with you as well as, as, um, the mentor or facilitator or speaker or teacher. Um, and about how they have so many applications as well. 

[00:15:08] Like yeah, it was such a wonderful, wonderful conversation. Oh, Oh, I’ll share that with you now. 

Cody snippet

[00:15:14] Yeah, Borderline, the camps we run are Uh, weekends for 12 to 14 year olds and week long camps for 15 to 18 year olds. Uh, we only take 50 teenagers per camp just to keep it a bit more, um, close knit. And we have about 20, um, leaders, or we call them boardies, um, on the camp.

[00:15:36] And they just come in and help. Um, kind of facilitate the week, uh, there’s a mix of guest speakers, there’s celebrities always popping in from TikTok to sports to music, um, there’s a lot of fun activities that kind of challenge the teenagers, but give them more of a, like a life lesson. Um, and then there’s also a lot of big moments where they get to say.

[00:15:59] You know, write a song with some of the cast of The Voice that this year, like when they get to write a song with them and then they write the song and then we release it on Spotify and, uh, a lot of those types of activities that give purpose as well. Um, but the way that we make this camps cool is just through those guest speakers, but also I guess.

[00:16:20] Our attitudes as, as the, um, the boardies. Um, I always say to our team is that we don’t want to treat teenagers in particular like children. And a big thing that I’ve experienced over years and years and years of going to school camps and like you know, PCYC camps, religious camps, every type of camp I’ve been there, like, I love them all.

[00:16:44] Um, I’m a fanatic. Like, the way that I see camps is the way that teenagers see Taylor Swift. Um, so I, I love them. But for me, it was like, I wanted to give an opportunity that way where all of us can actually get on the level of young people and really understand what they’re there for and not treat them like teenage, oh like children, sorry, um, treat them like the young adults they are and instantly every kit we have by just having that mindset, um, has helped us a lot and it’s not a easy task, um, but it’s just kind of those little things like when you’re having those conversations and having like kind of cutting the rules.

[00:17:25] That aren’t really needed. Like, I think for me, a big one that I cut straight away was the no swearing rule. Every camp I’ve been on, it’s been no swearing. But as soon as you take that rule out of a camp, you say, don’t swear. But I mean, you can swear, but don’t be stupid about it. Um, they instantly are like, Oh, cool.

[00:17:44] Like they respect you for it because they’re not going to then run around swearing their heads off saying, The F bombs or whatever, they’re not going to do that because you’ve given, given them that rule where you can swear if you want, but, and I think our rule is, um, it’s, we say F yeah, not F you. So swear only when you’re, when you’re excited or when you’re celebrating someone, not at someone.

[00:18:05] And that’s our big rule. Um, and instantly it just broke down these barriers and it was such a tiny thing, but it broke down these barriers where all these young people were like, they were just chilling. They weren’t swearing. They weren’t carrying on. They kind of became a little bit more mature as well.

[00:18:23] All of them. Like it wasn’t even just a select bunch. Even the, even the naughty kids that we thought were going to be a bit of a hassle instantly kind of. opened up and were like, Oh, yeah, cool. Like we’re not treating them like children. So they’re also not going to kind of act like children on purpose.

[00:18:38] So it was really interesting

[00:18:40] And yeah, other rules that followed up with that, the no phone rule, things like that at the camps. We’re massive as well. We just said, use your phones, but don’t use them during our sessions. Like we’ve, we literally work our butts off planning this week. Um, this camp, if you use your phone, you know, that’s stupid.

[00:18:57] Like don’t be, don’t be an idiot pretty much. And, um, and that again, it just broke down all these barriers because you’re giving them that freedom to show us that we’re all on the same level as well. Um, that makes sense. But yeah, so that was, um, that was, I’ve kind of rambled, but that was kind of like a big movement that we’ve.

[00:19:15] Kind of taken into the camps that have just created these monstrosities of a week and a weekend in a good way. Um, and has completely changed all of these young people’s lives, um, and continues to do so. I think we’re so, we’re backed up, um, with applications even now that we’re, we’re constantly trying to find funding to have more camps just because we, we book out, we book out within weeks, if not days of opening applications.

[00:19:44] Um, and yeah, it’s just, it’s become this really popular thing. So Yeah. I’m not surprised. Sounds amazing. It’s, it’s, it’s one of those things as well where it’s like. You, again, bring it back to that, that youth aspect of just treating teenagers like young adults and young people like young adults. Um, it’s, it’s just been an eye opener for us.

[00:20:08] And I think, um, another thing that we really focus on as well is. Never, I say this to all of the team, we’re never here to fix or change, we’re here to listen and inspire. And even, we do a lot of like obviously mental health stuff, so we have professionals come in to do those sessions when it comes to that, that heavy, heavy stuff.

[00:20:32] But for us as a, as their mentors, as their bodies, as their friends, we’re never there to fix or change them. We just want to be there to listen and inspire. And when we do that, it instantly again, breaks the barriers down. But those young people find that they’re changing within themselves just by looking at us as the inspiration and hearing our stories and hearing what we’ve done in our lives and all of that stuff.

[00:20:58] So. That’s a big thing that, um, I always pushed for our team because, yeah, I kind of, I never really got around that fact that we would have people come in like leaders and volunteers as well that were like, yes, I’m here to fix teenagers lives. It’s like, no, we’re not here to do that. We’re here to listen.

[00:21:15] We’re here to listen and show them that we care. 

[00:21:19] I could listen to Cardi all day. I’ll I’ll share a largest snippet with you in a future podcast. Episode two. We had a wonderful sessions in the conference as well about supporting young people with friendship issues, how to listen, curiously, um, supporting the kids who need more support. Um, Grant funding kind of stuff as well. 

[00:21:39] Storytelling for connecting with young people and with parents and digital. Um, marketing kind of stuff too. We had a couple of different sessions on that. Um, those really those business. Focus sessions too. Like, how do you social media in a way that works for us and allows us to build trust and connection with the parents and the students. 

[00:22:00] So if you miss the conference, you can access all the replays even now on the website. 

[00:22:04] So, um, yeah, you can check that out. Um, I’ll pop a link in the description and you know, if you’ve got an idea, About how you would like to support teens or tweens in 2024. And we’d love to flesh it out with someone. Please reach out. We can, we can jump on a free 15 minute calls or talk it through it’s it’s honestly one of my favorite things to do because, um, so often we can have the ideas swirling. 

[00:22:29] We can have the yearning kind of thing, or the little flutter in your heart, on your tummy that, you know, you want to do this. And sometimes talking to the people in your immediate life can just. You know, they want to protect us off often. So they might be pretty quick to go well, but how’s that going to work? 

[00:22:45] Or, um, I don’t know about that. You know, they can kind of. Um, with a lot of love. Uh, and up. Pulling it apart a little bit. I want to say that’s been, that’s what I’ve heard from, uh, from quite a few mentors and B my experience at times too. So. Um, if it helps to talk to someone who, um, has seen hundreds of people get stuff up and running, um, and you just want to kind of brainstorm a little bit, please do reach out. 

[00:23:13] I’ll pop a link for that below, too, but you can always reach out via, um, Probably out. Our website’s always easy shine from within.com today. You, um, Yeah. And if you know that 20, 24 is the year that you want to build your own youth mentor business, and you want some structured support to guide you through the process. 

[00:23:31] Um, you want some templates and examples to make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row and accountability to get it all up and running so that by the end of 2024, you’ve actually got. Uh, program for sale. You’ve got young people that you’re already connecting with and working with. Um, and you’re, you’re building momentum. Then, um, our next round of youth mentor training might be the perfect thing for you. 

[00:23:54] It starts in March or gosh, it is March. It starts on the 12th of March. It’s that’s really soon. Um, you have lifetime access to it. It takes, you know, kind of four or five hours awake max to keep up with, with it. So you do need. , a couple of sessions. Hm. Each week to keep on top of it. 

[00:24:14] Um, but you can do it in your own time. Um, we provide everything in video, audio transcript. Um, it’s all been made. Uh, accessible to all sorts of abilities. Um, Yeah, so you can kind of consume it. As you like, um, you know, it might be part of your commute to work and things like that to start to get into the content and then a couple of hours. On a weekend to really go through everything and submit any questions and things like that and, and, um, implement things. Um, Yeah. 

[00:24:45] Anyway, you can, you can check that out too. 

[00:24:49] What I know for sure is that we need more folks who care about young people and don’t just want to, um, lecture at them and impart their own wisdom. Um, that’s, what we’re really big on is, is really understanding what young people need, where they’re at. Um, how to get to the heart of, how you can bring your unique. Experiences and, um, and ways of being in the world and passions and things together with what the young people around you need. Understanding when they might need more support from, from someone else when you might need to refer them on to, um, other professionals, uh, and how to create something. 

[00:25:27] That’s going to be really engaging for the young people, how to market it, put it out there. And, um, get the foundations of your business up and running so that you can, yeah, you can do this and you can get into schools and do all the things. Um, Yeah. So if that’s something that you want to do or you’ve got a business already and you’re looking to take it to the next mix, kind of. I don’t wanna say the next level. 

[00:25:48] It feels so hustle, like, but you know, you’re ready for it to expand and to grow a little bit, um, then yeah, reach out. Let’s get some more little communities happening for young people. Around the world. Um, let me know if there’s something here that was supportive for you. I know I shared lots of, kind of little snippets of what we heard during the conference. 

[00:26:09] I’ll continue to share little snippets from the conference over the coming months as well, so that you can. Um, hear more about the stuff that’s going on with teens and their friendships and all sorts of things. Um, from our psychologist that, that shared, um, But yeah, if you’re, if you’re feeling like you just want access to it all, then, then head to youth-mentor-conference.com to, to get access to all the replays. Thank you for listening. 

[00:26:35] I feel like it feels weird for me to just ramble at you instead of be interviewing someone. Um, but it’s nice to, it’s nice to get, to have this time with you, and I appreciate you listening in. I’ll be back soon with another episode.

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