Young people have opinions—a lot of them. They also have great aspirations, goals, and visions for the future. Throughout history, young people have often been overlooked, yet they have stood at the forefront of creating effective social change. Even today, youth activism is on the rise as young people around the world are uniting and mobilizing to push forth movements for various important causes: climate justice, racial and gender equality, economic change, among many others.
Authentic youth voice matters because the perspectives of young people matter. Young people have the determination, creativity, and ideas to change the world. They have energy and imagination, and their unique viewpoints fuel their desire to be problem-solvers and innovators of the future. Young people also have one of the greatest stakes in rebuilding the system: they are our nation’s future decision-makers and leaders. Young people are capable of making positive social change, but ignoring youth voice means ignoring the potential of millions of young people in America alone.
Nonetheless, effectively engaging youth voice means much more than simply hearing what young people have to say. It means genuinely listening and actively seeking to understand a young person’s perspective. By creating a supportive and inclusive environment where young people know that their input is valued and respected, partnerships between youth and adults can be extremely impactful.
If you are a young person yourself, the best way to amplify your voice is to get involved in your community. Get engaged in local organizations, join youth-led movements, advocate for causes that you feel passionate about, and always remember that your voice matters!
As a Bank of America Student Leader intern at MMP, every day I am continually inspired by MMP’s commitment to amplifying youth voice and empowering young people. I strongly believe that when organizations, schools, and other youth services meaningfully incorporate youth voice and ensure that youth have a platform to express their opinions and beliefs, they become more responsive to the needs of the world around them. Authentic youth voice is powerful, and committing resources and providing opportunities to uplift youth voice can make a difference.
Michelle Ly is a BOA Student Leader at Mass Mentoring Partnership.