youth & education
What is a role model? Five qualities that matter to youth
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A Role Model Shows Passion and Ability to Inspire
Role models show passion for their work and have the capacity to infect others with their passion. Speaking of several of his teachers, one student said, “They’re so dedicated to teaching students and helping students and empowering students. That is such a meaningful gesture. They are always trying to give back to the next generation. That really inspires me.”
A Role Model Shows a Clear Set of Values
Role models live their values in the world. Children admire people who act in ways that support their beliefs. It helps them understand how their own values are part of who they are and how they might seek fulfilling roles as adults. For example, students spoke of many people who supported causes from education to poverty to the environment. Role models helped these students understand the underlying values that motivated people to become advocates for social change and innovation.
A Role Model Shows Commitment to Community
A role model is other-focused as opposed to self-focused. Role models are usually active in their communities, freely giving of their time and talents to benefit people. Students admired people who served on local boards, reached out to neighbors in need, voted, and were active members of community organizations.
A Role Model Shows Selflessness and Acceptance of Others
Related to the idea that role models show a commitment to their communities, students also admired people for their selflessness and acceptance of others who were different from them. One student spoke of her father, saying “He never saw social barriers. He saw people’s needs and acted on them, no matter what their background or circumstances. He was never afraid to get his hands dirty. His lifestyle was a type of service. My father taught me to serve.”
A Role Model Shows Ability to Overcome Obstacles
As Booker T. Washington once said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome.” Young people echoed this sentiment, showing how they developed the skills and abilities of initiative when they learned to overcome obstacles. Not surprisingly, they admire people who show them that success is possible.
Excerpt reprinted with permission.
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