Every decision made–whether by policymakers, businesses, local government, school boards, or other organizations–has the potential to impact youth. Young people deserve to have the chance to shape their community and fight for the future they want. That is why here at Vermont Afterschool, we believe youth voice and youth empowerment are essential. Advocacy has the power to uplift youth voices and engage youth in matters important to them. It also allows young people the opportunity to feel heard and to make change in their community, state, or country.
Click here for more information on what advocacy is and the different actions it can entail.
Ways for youth to get involved
There are many ways youth can get involved in advocacy. Find out if there are any youth councils, clubs, or groups in your community that are involved in advocacy efforts. For example, a club that focuses around climate change and advocates for possible initiatives to be implemented in Vermont. Or an anti-Racism group that advocates for anti-racist policies and practices in your community. Another idea would be researching non-profits or organizations that do work in the area you are interested in. These places may have opportunities for you to get involved in advocacy work.
Additionally, you can start advocacy work all on your own! For instance, you can create a blog, write an op-ed or letter to the editor for a local newspaper, or start a social media campaign to advocate for your issue. Writing an article that details why your issue is important and the change you would like to see can send a powerful message to governments and organizations (here’s a great example). Another way to use your voice is to attend a community meeting to share your position on the issue at hand or submit comments via email.
If you aren’t sure where to start with your advocacy consider these initial steps. First, think about the topics you are passionate about and the changes you want to see made. Second, you have to consider scale. Is this change something you want to see in your community? Or is it statewide or national? Next, think about the institutions and organizations that influence or make the decisions on your chosen topic. Reach out to them and see if there is any way to get involved.
Opportunities for adults to get youth involved
Getting youth involved in advocacy is a great way to promote empowerment and encourage them to get engaged in issues they care about. One way to get your youth involved in advocacy is to create a youth council in your community. A youth council gives youth the opportunity to advocate for projects and initiatives that help shape their community. This can increase youth engagement and make youth feel a greater sense of connection with the community. A group or club could also be created to help advocate for issues your youth are passionate about. This group could help educate the community, organize events, and research the topic. Another idea is to have your youth submit letters to the editors or op-eds to local newspapers.
Once you have a group of youth ready to advocate for change, you all can meet to organize an action plan. It can be very helpful to come up with a strategy for advocacy and to consider how to campaign for your issue.
In addition, you can research local nonprofits to see if they have any advocacy needs and how they would suggest you advocate for their cause. If there are already groups and clubs in your community that focus on advocating for the issues your youth are interested in, get your youth in touch with them to see if they can join. This way they will already be involved in a group doing the work and jump right into advocating for their cause.
Afterschool Alliance: Youth voice is key to advocacy success
School-Based Health Alliance: Recruiting and retaining young leaders
Voices of Youth: Guidelines on Adolescent Participation and Civic Engagement
Forum for Youth Investment: Building Effective Youth Councils: A practical guide to engaging youth in policy making
Advocates for Youth: Building Effective Youth-Adult Partnerships
Change My Community: Toolbox for Young Leaders
Advocates for Youth: Youth Activist Toolkit
ADL: 10 Ways Youth Can Engage in Activism
Youth Lead: Advocacy Starter Kit
Youth Lead: Youth in Civic Engagement Starter Kit
Youth Lead: Youth Engagement and Empowerment Starter Kit
Voices of Youth: Blogging 101
Voices of Youth: Youth Advocacy Guide Workbook
Voices of Youth: Youth Advocacy
Action Circles: Key tips for communicating with legislators
The Borgen Project: How to be an Advocate
School-based Health Alliance: Youth Engagement Toolkit