How Youth Become Adult Allies

Freechild Institute Adult Ally Toolkit
How Youth Become Adult Allies

Cynicism eats at the hearts of adults. With media and politicians relying on negative feelings towards youth, many adults have stopped seeing youth as the future. Instead, they view young people as lazy, hostile, apathetic and incapable. Luckily, there is another way to be.

When youth become adults, they have the potential to become allies to youth. Whether they are young adults, parents or elders, all adults can become adult allies to young people.

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’”

—Toni Morrison

How Youth Become Adult Allies

When youth age out or transition from youth programs into adulthood, they can be some of the most powerful adult allies in our communities. Here are ways youth can become adult allies:

  1. Reflect. Looking at their experiences as youth program participants, community members, or the subjects of different activities, adults should acknowledge who they were as youth, how they were involved, what they did, where they were and why they were involved.
  2. Learn. Exploring different activities and issues affecting youth and communities today, adults should learn about what matters most to young people today.
  3. Engage. Find opportunities to interact, connect, expand, appropriately deepen and meaningfully sustain your engagement with young people. This means asking young people what matters most to them, empowering them to make change, connecting them to resources and sustaining your support.
  4. Advocate. Position young people to advocate for themselves, and when they can’t you should advocate for them. In adult-only spaces, work to transform them to bring youth into planning, research, decision-making, evaluation and advocacy.
  5. Sustain. Do everything within your power to sustain your interest and commitment to engaging youth throughout their own lives, our communities, democracy and social change.

Becoming an adult ally isn’t something that just happens one time. Instead it takes commitment and re-commitment and a sustained interested in personal engagement and social transformation.

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