In light of recent media coverage of student organizing and activism, we were curious to hear what members of our Youth Advisory Board think about their power as young people and what they believe is missing from the national conversation. Read on for excerpts from their responses.
What is your power as a young person?
“I have the power to use my education as a tool to reach other people. I think we have the power to be optimistic. Oftentimes adults lose their sense of optimism.”
“I have the power to educate myself about the people around me and issues they may face.”
“I have the ability to understand my peers better than adults would. Social media has really given young people the ability to express their power. It also allows us to create support groups in times where we may feel helpless.”
“As young people, we have the power to simply be young and vibrant and see the world in its ultimate beauty and light.”
“My power as a young person is to provide invaluable personal perspective that adults need for considering what we need in caring for us as well as in voting for change that affects us.”
“As a young person, I feel that I do have the power to make a difference even though I am not yet old enough to vote. When we rally together, we have the power to make our voices and opinions heard by politicians.”
“Peaceful protest is within the power of young people.”
What do you think is missing from the conversation about young people today?
“There is an idea that young people can't enact meaningful change, and I think that it's completely false.”
“Adults too easily dismiss the experiences of young people. The unique experiences of young people are important and should not be dismissed just because we have less experience overall. Any experience with relevant topics and issues is important at any age.”
“The missing part is having lawmakers and adults backing us up.”
“One of the things that is missing from the conversation about young people today is that we are fully capable of being a part of the conversation. We are fully capable of sitting at the decision-making table and being rational human beings. It is vital for adults to realize that the decisions that they are making fully impact us and we are the ones that have to live with the laws that are being passed.”
What support do you welcome from adults?
“I welcome any and all support from adults who believe in the power of youth.”
“I welcome any support from adults that will help me reach my goals. This support could be just encouraging me to continue to stand up for what I believe in, or it could be fighting alongside me for a cause important to me.”
“The support that I welcome from adults is for them to just listen to us and to think about the future of America based on the decisions that we are making now.”
“Adults have more access to financial resources, which is really helpful for student activists who are trying to organize and share information.”
“Adults are important to young people's movements through donations, voting, and changes to legislation. Lawmakers who listen to young people are essential, donors who care about student movements are important, and adults who vote with the experiences of young people in mind are invaluable.”
“When I marched for gun control from a high school to the capitol of my state, adults from businesses and neighborhoods came to cheer for over 3,000 teens in order to support us. This support was greatly appreciated and it's really helpful and comforting to know that adults have our backs.”
When are times when you wish adults would take a step back?
“I don't like when teachers try to support student political movements by oversharing their political views in class. I think it prevents students who disagree from being heard and therefore pushes them into a corner, which prevents anyone from learning more about a different perspective on the issue.”
“Now is the time for adults to step back because we have things to say loud and clearly and some adults think we are too young to express ourselves.”
“I wish adults would focus less on telling young people what they need to do and stand for, and instead listen and offer guidance in a non-condescending way.”
“It is inspiring to see the youth around me rising up and realizing the political power that we have. I can't wait to see my generation vote and become engaged citizens as we break down the barriers between us.”