Youth-Adult Partnership Spotlight-Winter 2024

We asked 100 people ‘Name something you associate with an island’.




I can’t confirm that Family Feud never asked this question. However, community programs and outreach do ask themselves. We choose how to define this island without recognizing the task most days.

We envy those setting off on vacation to tropical islands–that perfect getaway where none of the problems that fatigue us can follow us.

We criticize or fear the island resorts-the examples of how societal structures create inequitable resource distribution and resulting tragic effects.

We plan for deserted islands-the places we hope we aren’t stranded, we need our ingenuity to make them habitable, or in the case of a recent youth activity, spaces that have more assets than we assumed at first glance.

Deserted Island*

Give the youth five minutes to think as a team about a difficult situation.

Situation: The group will be stuck on a deserted island together for one full month.  You can only take five things with you besides the clothes on your back and enough food for one week.  What five things would you take?

After the five minutes are over, ask them what they would bring and why.

I set this task in front of multiple groups of youth.  I love presenting it in the context of my own community work. 

 “This is our task,” I begin.  “We have limited access to resources but we try to choose the ones that we believe will create the best space, the most meaningful experience.  And, too often we do it separated from the other islands being created and marketed in the community.  First, you will choose the items for your island.  Second, you will have the opportunity to market the island.

Each time, youth engage with the task and pathways to solutions differently.  Key takeaways worth noting from youth choices and messaging about their islands include:

  • Be flexible with definitions
  • Build a new system instead of adding to the old one
  • Resources connect to audiences in unexpected ways

While I am proud of these bullet points, I consider that we’re able to write them because I had been too flexible with the definition of ‘deserted’.  

For this blog post, I Googled ‘deserted’, fearing that perhaps I had been too flexible.

Google responded, “empty of people”

In fact, when I asked Pixabay the same question, I was shown an array of descriptions apparently associated with ‘deserted’.

I hadn’t been too lenient.  I had only been reacting to our common image of ‘deserted island’.  This meant that the choice to bring airplanes or to encounter sustainable agriculture systems were valid.  It is also an example of how youth see assets that they could use to build forward on the island where adults assumed none existed.

The definition, ‘empty of people’ was also cause for an ironic smile, because youth workers and organizations know this will always be our opportunity to collaborate–to engage people and get them to show up.

*Youth Advocates for Community Health Curriculum pg. 14


In the Division of Extension, our programs, or islands, have one requirement, Positive Youth Development.  These programs seek to support youth to feel safe and encourage them to learn hands on, try out leadership and contribute to their communities.  Youth-adult partnership impacts youth, adults and the organizations to which they belong as policies and environments are changed.

Membership Expansion in Wisconsin 4-H means we reduce barriers to youth populations who typically would not have joined 4-H.  The impact is increased youth access to 4-H resources and benefits.  The following resources are meant to remove ‘island’ barriers.

Postsecondary Pathways-Juntos is an effort to cross seemingly wide divides to settle on the perfect island (postsecondary pathway).  Information and opportunities for conversation can be found at our website or sign up for our newsletter.  Thank you to Emily Matteson (UW-Whitewater at Rock County) and Elisa Colson (Blackhawk Technical College) for continuing to build our raft!

Civic Engagement-The reflection questions provided for the students are fairly straightforward, but one question stood out to me.

  • What role(s) did different members of the group take on (leader, follower, questioner, notetaker, etc.)

There are implications here about the definition of leader that are counterproductive to our work with youth so far which has attempted to provide more vocabulary to describe leadership and increasingly diverse examples of what leadership may look like.  Explore this list of leadership traits. These conceptions of leadership held by both youth and adults will be the foundation of Youth-Adult Partnership in the developing Youth in Governance (YIG) initiative. Read about the impacts of YIG. Or, current programming in other counties, such as Racine.

New 4-H Clubs-In Rock County we build 4-H clubs from our community experience to provide the same opportunity to county-wide 4-H resources as a youth who participate in a 4-H community club.  Nia and Teen Cuisine Coders are two amazing examples!

We are intentional about sharing new, developing opportunities with the community.  You can read more about Positive Youth Development Around Rock County.

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