spend a good chunk of their learning time immersed in
such subjects as algebra, history, biology and geography.
But the march
toward a successful and satisfying adulthood involves
more than the ability to add numbers or read and analyze
are skills that help young people develop character
and give them the courage and fortitude to deal with
the many challenges life will throw at them, says
founder of the nonprofit organization Summer
Search, which provides disadvantaged young people
with life-changing and challenging summer opportunities.
the physical, emotional and intellectual explosions
of the adolescent years, it’s critical that teenagers
develop a belief in their own ability to succeed,”
says Mornell, who also is author of the book Forever
Changed: How Summer Programs and Insight Mentoring
Challenge Adolescents and Transform Lives.
who truly believe they can perform well are more likely
to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered
rather than something to be avoided.”
values that help lead adolescents to a more satisfying
life can range from respecting their parents to understanding
that making mistakes is part of life. Here are just
five of the many skills Mornell says can make a difference.
- Learn to listen.
The willingness to listen is a direct reflection of
how much we value each other, Mornell says, and being
listened to reduces stress. “Nothing teaches
young people more about how to become good listeners
than having a mentor or other adult who consistently
and intently listens to them,” she says. “The
ability to listen with intention and compassion creates
and enhances qualities like curiosity, empathy and
and manage stress. It’s essential that
young people understand the role stress plays in their
lives and the difference between healthy and unhealthy
outlets for handling that stress. Healthy outlets
for stress include exercise, talking, creative pursuits
and venting anger through words and exercise in safe
environments. Unhealthy outlets include withdrawing
and bottling up feelings, overeating or restricting
food, violent behavior, relying on passive activities
like TV and video games, alcohol and drug use, premature
sexual activity, and blaming others.
- Embrace anger.
Young people (and perhaps adults as well)
who want to achieve success often try to keep a lid
on negative emotions, Mornell says. For inner-city
students, she says, that instinct is especially understandable
because acting on angry impulses raises the risk of
getting hurt in the neighborhood or can be a threat
to fragile relationships at home. Yet Mornell, who
worked as a psychiatric nurse, has seen despondent
patients find relief when they are given permission
to appropriately vent their anger and frustration.
“We definitely see that with Summer Search students
as well,” Mornell says. “They consistently
feel better when their mentors help them talk about
rather than swallow their frustrations.”
- Reject the
victim mentality. Many young people struggle
at times with feeling like victims. That especially
can be the case for those growing up in poverty. “In
truth, they often are victimized,” Mornell says.
“They may live in a dangerous neighborhood with
highly stressed and single-parent families, and every
day they are confronted with the harsh realities of
poverty.” The challenge, she says, is for young
people to separate their experience of literally being
a victim from the tendency to develop a victim mentality.
They can’t control the former, but they can
control the latter.
- Value humor.
are turned off by sarcasm from adults, but they have
a great appreciation for humor. “If a mentor
and a student can start poking fun at each other,
the friendly teasing can lead to a closer and more
trusting relationship,” Mornell says. “Learning
to laugh at oneself is an important skill for us all.”
About Linda Mornell
was born on a farm in Muncie, Ind. After getting her
RN and bachelor’s degrees from Methodist Hospital
and DePauw University, she headed west on a Greyhound
bus. She received psychiatric training from Langley
Porter at the University of California in San Francisco
and married a psychiatric resident, Pierre Mornell.
She has three adult children and seven grandchildren.
Mornell divides her time among family, writing and
consulting. In 2014, she was blessed by His Holiness
the 14th Dalai Lama for her efforts to empower disadvantaged