Youth leadership happens anytime a young person takes control, manages, directs and leads themselves and/or others. Within themselves, young people show leadership by identifying what matters to them and holding true to those things, including their values, objectives, goals and ideas. Throughout their lives, young people can lead by example, lead by following and lead through determination. Youth leadership can include actions that affect other youth, younger children and adults, whether its three people or 3,000,000 people.
The Freechild Project believes that while youth leadership development has long been seen as a tool for manipulation of youth power, there is possibility and reality for young people becoming powerful, engaged leaders for social change.
“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength; one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” ― Booker T. Washington
Ways Youth are Changing the World through Youth Leadership
Engaging Diversity ― Young people are expanding the scope and depth of leadership activities by engaging nontraditional youth leaders in partnerships. Focused on race and social-economic differences, these youth are also engaging BLGQTT youth; low-academic achievers and dropouts; youth from alternative family backgrounds and others.
Active, Informed Leadership ― Rather than simply leading within a vacuum, youth leaders today are learning, exploring and examining as much as they can about their communities, families and society in order to become more effective, engaging leaders. They are also taking direct, tangible action that results in real outcomes.
Critical Thinking and Critical Action ― Accepting status quo and perpetuating bland adult perspectives of youth isn’t enough for many youth leaders today. Instead, examining their actions from a social justice lens, they are taking radically different, radically engaging approaches to transforming the schools, organizations, community and societies that name them leaders.
Tools Youth Need to Change the World through Youth Leadership
Education ― Providing real, substantive opportunities for youth leaders to learn about the world through practical action is a key to successful youth leadership today. Addressing the issues we’ve identified throughout this website and taking any actions to create change is an important way to learn; reflection, critical thinking and cultural actions are great ways to demonstrate that learning.
Opportunities ― Its all fun and games until a neighborhood, organization, or society doesn’t change. Working together, young people and adults can identify practical opportunities for youth leaders to make a difference in their lives or the lives of others.
Youth/Adult Partnerships ― Youth do not need to rely on adults to create youth leadership opportunities. However, when they form youth/adult partnerships together to change the world, youth and adults can transform everyone’s lives.
- Youth as Decision-Makers
- Holistic Youth Development
- Youth as Activity Leaders
- “Radical Transparency with Children and Youth“
- National Indian Youth Leadership Project
- Latino Justice Youth Leadership Network
- National Alliance for Secondary Education and Transition Youth Development & Youth Leadership
- Bioneers Youth Leadership
- The Power of Transformative Youth Leadership: A Field Analysis of Youth Organizing in Pittsburgh by the Movement Strategy Center
- Institute for Community Leadership
- The Center for Teen Empowerment
- Youth Leadership Support Network
- Youth Leadership Institute
- Lideres Youth Leadership Summit
- Center for Third World Organizing Programs for Young Activists of Color
- Midwest Academy – Organizing for Social Change
- Peace Jam
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can help build youth leadership in your community or organization, contact us.