Engaging Youth: Q&A with Trekkers Training Institute

by | Aug 18, 2023

ROCKLAND – This summer, Trekkers Training Institute (TTI) offered a 4-part training series on Youth Engagement. The sessions were open to the public and offered on a sliding scale. With the sessions complete, Communications & Impact Manager, Tess Valdepenas sat down with Diane Sternberg to reflect on the series.

Tess: The participants had various roles in engaging youth (i.e. at work, as a family member, as a mentor, etc.). Do you think everyone who interacts with young people should learn more about how to engage with them?

Diane: Absolutely! Navigating through the changes and challenges of adolescence requires lots of support and strong relationships with caring adults are very important for young people. It takes intention and effort to meet young people where they are with curiosity and empathy and that is something we can all continue to work on. 

Tess: Though the focus is on youth, the Embracing a Strengths-Based Approach workshop required personal introspection, why?

Diane: A strength-based approach values the skills, knowledge and unique capabilities that each person brings to an experience. By approaching challenges through the lens of what is working, adults and young people can discover new ways to work through challenges together. This often requires us to acknowledge our own struggles and biases and embrace the idea that shifting our perspective often leads to a positive outcome. 

Tess: What is one idea you hope people who work with youth bring forward from the “Building Intentional Relationships” workshop?

Diane: In order to build a relationship with anybody, you need to show up as your authentic self. And listen to remember. 

Tess: Why do organizations need to “Create a Community Support Network”?

Diane: There are so many wonderful organizations in this area and sometimes the youth we serve need support that falls out of our area of expertise. Building a community support network allows us to lean on other organizations who specialize in different skills when we need additional support. An asset map collects, identifies, and organizes resources throughout the area in a way that allows organizations to reach out and depend on each other to meet needs beyond their scope. 

Tess: What are some ways people can “Elevate Youth Voice and Choice” in their own communities?

Diane: The first step is inviting young people into the conversation and then listening to what they have to say with a desire to learn something. Connecting young people to leadership opportunities, advocating for them and stepping aside to let young voices make decisions is also necessary. Another important step is truly collaborating by offering young people a variety of ways to be involved in teaching, learning and decision making and following up by supporting their ideas and using our own connections and resources to turn them into action. 

Tess: For those who couldn’t make it, why are workshops in-person and not recorded?  

Diane: All of the workshops rely heavily on group participation, both in activities we do together and in conversation. The culture we establish and the questions and ideas that participants bring to the table very much inform the flow of the workshops. 

To learn more about the TTI Youth Engagement Training reach out to [email protected]


Trekkers Training Institute (TTI) is the professional development arm of Trekkers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people thrive. TTI helps youth practitioners reimagine their practice to reach better outcomes for young people. TTI offers workshops, coaching, and professional development distilled from evidence-based research and almost thirty years of experience serving youth in the Midcoast. To learn more about Trekkers Training Institute, visit trekkersinstitute.org.