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Youth financial leadership: Developing a sustainable leadership programme led by youth for youth to develop financial skills

Youth leadership is an area that is continuing to grow in the education sector. However, most opportunities for youth leadership are still being constructed with traditional structures and have to be applied for by students, only to be achieved by a few. More research is needed on ways to authentically engage young people in leadership roles where they are encouraged to be active agents and own their student voice. This thesis was developed in response to the challenges that a changing economy and many complex pieces of financial information present young adults in their transition into adulthood. The purpose of the research was to explore youth leadership through the process of co-construction and peer mentorship. This thesis presents findings from a research project involving eight Year 13 students on a leadership journey to co-construct a financial learning programme and then teach this through the use of peer mentorship to their fellow Year 9 students. It explores in depth the perceptions held by youth in regards to the importance of leadership opportunities, how relationships can impact the authenticity of co-constructing curriculum and the mutual benefits for both mentor and mentee of using peer mentoring to learn key financial literacy skills. Student voice was a key part of this research as participants were involved in the planning of the programme, the facilitation of the content, and also the reflection of how it was delivered and any changes that could be made in the future. Using qualitative, action inquiry research and a positive youth development approach ensured that students were kept at the core of this research, believing that they are experts in their own lives and experiences. The main questions that guided this research were: 1. What are young peoples’ perceptions and understandings of youth leadership and how might they engage these ideas as peer mentors when leading others? 2. What might a financial development leadership programme that is co-constructed with students and based on peer teaching look like? 3. How does participation in a financial development leadership programme influence a young person’s knowledge, understandings and skills of financial literacy? The findings indicated that the students who participated in this research had a wide range of beliefs about leadership however, all agreed that everyone had the ability to be a leader. The senior students wanted the opportunity to not only learn these leadership skills but to also help their younger peers throughout the process. Co-construction and peer mentorship were found to be successful methods of creating and facilitating a learning programme with youth. However, they were complex processes that relied heavily on time availability and the creation of positive, quality relationships. Overall, the participants understanding of both leadership and financial literacy were seen to be enhanced by their experience in the programme of learning. This research is of significance to educators or anyone that is working with youth in a leadership capacity or peer mentorship role. It also lends support for new ideas on how secondary schools can attempt to encourage a more practical and low-risk approach to youth learning leadership skills and the content of financial literacy, with the scope to go broader. It supports youth to have a voice as to how they would like to prepare for leadership and learn the 21ˢᵗ century skills, such as, financial literacy that are needed to navigate adulthood.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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