Youth Engagement in Portland, Oregon

Back in the early 2000s, Portland, Oregon, was another midline American city with nothing special happening. Sure, they had a city youth council, but it was under-energized and ill-equipped for the new century that just began. Then, action happened.

In 2002, Multnomah County hired a new youth development coordinator named Josh Todd, and he transformed the entire operation. Over the course of a half-decade, he basically super-charged the county’s youth programs and set them up for the future.

During that time, there were several significant developments. They included:

  • Focusing on youth of color and low-income youth to dramatically increase their participation in youth engagement activities throughout the entire county;
  • Expanding the Multnomah County Youth Council and including the City of Portland to make the youth commission a joint City-County policy body;
  • Creating a two-year, community-wide project that created a Youth Bill of Rights, with more than 4,000 youth involved in the creation and implementation of the final document;
  • Securing significant funding from the Youth Innovation Fund of the Kellogg Foundation. They gave the City of Portland and Multnomah County $325,000 over 4-years to support their countywide youth engagement work. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation Youth Innovation Fund supported “diverse groups of young people, working in partnership with community institutions, to create civic innovations that address public issues and problems using a service-learning framework.”
  • They trained a lot of people through their program.

According to youth and adults there, the City of Portland and Multnomah County still have issues in their youth development, youth engagement and youth/adult partnership work. However, the work of the Youth Commission has made great strides today and into the future that all communities worldwide can learn from!

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The Voices We Don’t Hear

  • Who talks that we don’t listen to?
  • What’s said that isn’t heard?
  • Why do we say that all youth voice matters, but then only listen to the voices that sound like our own?

With the visible outpouring of support for youth voice across the US in the last month, it can be easy to feel like youth voice is finally being heard. Years of standing up to shout and being ignored are finally being leveraged against the power of the internet and the will of a generation that’s been denied, ignored and otherwise rejected from joining the public dialogues that affect them most.

But while that’s happening, there’s another group of youth who feel even more repressed and oppressed in their attempts to express their voices. These young people live in areas where pain and trauma are almost as constant as the denial of their place, space and race at the table.

These youth aren’t courted by major national nonprofits and foundations who are handing out resources and money to support youth voice while its trending. They aren’t given passes from school to attend rallies and they don’t have parental permission slips to get on buses going to capitals for protests.

Instead, the youth I’m talking about are going to their evening jobs, or going home to watch their brothers and sisters after school and can take a day off. They’re literally in juvenile detention and in school suspension, waiting as prisoners at the whim of adults to set them free. They’re struggling to get passing grades in school, struggling to make and keep good friends, and struggling to stay safe tonight when they’re walking from the bus stop to their homes.

This is the reality: There are many youth voices that aren’t being heard right now. This moment isn’t being shared by all youth everywhere, even if we’re pretending and being told it is. Some young people are actually being suffocated by this particular pop culture moment that’s supposedly uplifting youth voice because their voices are being stifled in the midst of it all.

So, adults: Do youth have things to say that we don’t want to hear, but should regardless. Yes is the answer. Here’s a space where you can share those things, in the comments below.


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Why Play Games When There’s Work To Do? Fun, Games and Social Change

SoundOut Summer Camp Participants

“There are at least two kinds of games.  One would be called finite, the other infinite.  A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, and an infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing to play.  The rules of a finite game may not change; the rules of an infinite game must… The finite game player aims to win eternal life; the infinite player aims for eternal birth.” – James P. Carse, as quoted by Dale LeFevre*

 

“We must abandon completely the naive faith that education automatically liberates the mind and serves the cause of human progress; in fact we know it may serve any cause. It may serve tyranny as well as freedom, ignorance as well as enlightenment, falsehood as well as truth. It may lead men and women to think they are free even as it rivets them in chains of bondage… In the course of history, education has served every purpose and doctrine contrived by man; if it is to serve the cause of human freedom, it must be explicitly designed for that purpose.” – George Counts*

 

There’s so much to do!  Communities seem like they’re falling apart; and young people, old people, brown people, black people, poor people, and lots of other people aren’t getting the respect or power they deserve.  Why play games when there’s so much work to do?  There’s a lot of reasons to look at, but first let’s define what we’re talking about.

 

What Are Cooperative Games?

Cooperative games emphasize participation, challenge and fun rather then defeating someone. Cooperative games focus on fun and interaction rather than competition and alienation. Cooperative games are not new.

Some of the classic games we played as children are classic because they focused on play. There may be competition involved, but the outcome of the competition is not sitting out or losing. Instead, it may involve switching teams so that everyone ends up on the winning team.

 

What Are Initiative Games?

Initiative games are fun, cooperative, challenging games in which the group is confronted with a specific problem to solve. Initiative games can be used for several reasons.  The games can be used to demonstrate and teach leadership skills to people, which helps to promote the growth of trust and problem-solving skills in groups.  Games demonstrate a process of thinking about experiences that helps people learn and practice responsibility.

Some people avoid calling them “games,” choosing “activity,” “challenge,” or “problem” instead.  Whatever a group chooses to call them, these games can boost our efforts to create powerful, lasting community change.

 

Why Play Games?

When a group of people are preparing to participate in social change, there needs to be some breaking down of inhibitions before they become group participants.  “There is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M” and all that.  Before a group can build effective solutions to the problems facing their communities, they need to trust each other and communicate.

Cooperative games also help set the tone of an action.  Social change work is often hard-driven and energy-consuming.  Many groups find that cooperative games offer a brisk, friendly way to couple passionate task-oriented goals with driven, group-minded teambuilding.  In other words, fun and games help propel social change.

Another purpose of games is to get people to think together, as a team, so that everyone in the group has input and shares ideas.  When we have input we have ownership, and when more people have ownership there is more success.

 

Aren’t Games Distracting?

When used right, games can actually accentuate the purpose of your day’s work or your group’s purpose.  Through a technique called “framing,” games become relevant and powerful tools to break down barriers, build up focus, and make your group’s process more effective and inclusive of all involved.

In all settings games should be used to build a sense of purpose, passion, and opportunity.  Without those pieces as goals, games become pacifiers for the grown, as their potential to stave off the appetite of a group that hungers for power is immense.  In classrooms where teachers use games as “fillers” the students mope lazily back to their desks, as they know the grueling pain of continuity is about to continue.  In classrooms where teachers use the games in context of the lessons, students aim to learn with eagerness and a sense of purpose.

The purpose of the games is often set during the introduction, or framing, of the activity.  Participants may be forewarned of the deeper meanings, or the activity may be introduced as a metaphor.  Another way to inject purpose into activities is in the reflection or debriefing of the activity.

An easy way to see the relevance of reflection is to picture games as a circle: you start with an explanation of the activity, framing its purpose and goals to the group.  The activity progresses, with the facilitator taking a more hands-on or less guiding approach as needed.  Finally, the group reflection helps participants see how they met the goal, and to envision the broader social change implications.  Then the group has come full-circle.

 

What Games Should We Play?

Games can be chosen to meet almost any purpose.  The following games mentioned are all in the book mentioned below. Does your group need to develop its teambuilding skills?  Try the Caterpillar.  Do you need to work closely and get used to each other’s physical space?  Try Sardines.  You’ve been inside all day, sitting on your butts and thinking, and you just want to play?  Check out Blob Tag or Human Scissors-Paper-Rock .  Your group needs to trust each mentally, emotionally, and physically?  Use the Trust Circle.  Learning, trusting, feeling and thinking together are the goals of these games.  Its helpful for every group to remember that.

 

Many people use games as an introduction or a closing to their activities.  However, its a good idea to add them throughout your day, between or as a part of a larger event.  Games are a great way to break up the monotony of a long day’s learning, or a hard day’s work.  They are also a great way to keep small children busy, and big children happy.  You may want to play a game to reinforce teamwork after a sucky day (because they happen) or play a game to relieve some group stress or build the scenario to work through a problem.  Games are actually tools that a skilled facilitator has at their fingertips in a time of need.

 

Great! How Do We Get Started?

Below is a list of easy-to-use games.  They come from a wide collection of games available from the Freechild Project’s FireStarter Youth Power Curriculum.  Check out this list and go visit FireStarter for more!  You can also look up the bibliography listed under the Facilitator’s Guide there.

For many more resources on cooperative and initiative games, visit the links on the right, and read some of the great books available (especially those by the greats Karl Rohnke and Dale LeFevre.  Play safe, play purposefully, play fun and play hard!

 

Selected Games

Check out our free book, The Freechild Project Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change. This insightful new guide will help community workers, teachers, activists, and all kinds of people find fun, engaging, and powerful activities that promote teamwork, communication, and social justice.

Sources
  • LeFevre, Dale (1988) New Games for the Whole Family. New York: Perigee Books.
  • Counts, George S. (1963) Education and the Foundations of Human Freedom. Out-of-print.

 

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Summits

Adam at Vancouver WA youth summit 2018 2

Youth Summits are opportunities for young people to become engaged in positive, powerful and passionate action to change the world. They create short, safe time and space where youth and their adult allies can learn and grow, share youth voice, and become engaged in what matters most to them. Also called Youth Conferences, Youth Summits should increase the inspiration, education, ability and impact of empowerment-oriented action through youth/adult partnerships.

The Basics of Youth Summits

Youth Summits should…

  • Assess youth needs from the perspectives of youth
  • Focus on identifying practical, tangible action with immediate, identifiable outcomes that are visible to youth
  • Create safe and healthy networking opportunities for youth and adult allies
  • Provide opportunities for youth and adult allies to commit to doing something and taking action afterwards
  • Create opportunities for youth and adult allies to lead and follow throughout, including developing skills in communication, teamwork, problem-solving and other lifelong areas
  • Address adultism directly and deliberately bridge gaps between age and cultural gaps

Benefits of Youth Summits

During and after Youth Summits, young people should…

  • Get the chance to meet other youth and adult allies in a specific community or interested in a specific issue area
  • Add youth voice to issues affecting entire communities or organizations or fields
  • Become active in practical, visible action that can benefit them today and in the future
  • Build their knowledge, skills and abilities to make their own ideas and the concerns of their families and communities heard
Ephebiphobia is the fear of youth. The Freechild Project
Improve your program or organization. Learn about the fear of youth today.

Tips for Planning Youth Summits

  • Develop clear big picture objectives for the Youth Summit
  • Identify SMART goals for the Youth Summit that are Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Sensitive
  • This is a group project – delegate as much responsibility as possible to create youth ownership and adult investment
  • Develop a clear decision-making process
  • Estimate how much planning time is needed, then double it.
  • Obligate all partner organizations to commit staff time and name which staff in their organization will become involved
  • Hold an orientation for all youth planners to help them understand what kind of commitment is necessary to participate in the Youth Summit
  • Help everyone involved, youth and adult allies, understand the Youth Summit requires hard-working volunteers who can be held individually accountability for their roles
  • Caution everyone involved against burnout
  • Required elements of every Youth Summit include:
    • Inspirational and motivational activities
    • Interactive activities
    • Hands-on, directly applicable learning opportunities
    • Social times and non-facilitated spaces
    • Food, snacks and drinks
    • Action planning opportunities
  • Pre-registration is highly recommended
  • Make participants feel important and special for attending. You can…
    • Limit the number of attendees
    • Give special certificates to all attendees
    • Send out a press release with participants’ names
    • Give t-shirts and other swag to attendees

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Action Councils

Freechild Project youth program participants in Seattle

Youth Action Council is a group of young people who develop a group approach using their individual abilities in order to solve serious social issues. In Youth Action Councils, young people develop, implement and evaluate actions through youth/adult partnerships. Youth Action Councils can be hosted by nonprofits, local/state/federal government agencies, school districts, community groups, international NGOs, and other organizations. Member ages, terms, numbers, issues and actions vary according to organizational priorities, youth voice and other factors. Youth Action Councils are the activity that changed everything for youth engagement. Before Youth Action Councils, organizations didn’t imagine what youth could do to change the world; after they started to exist, organizations only wanted to dream bigger.

How to Build Youth + Social Change through Youth Action Councils

Youth as Trainers ― Working together with their communities, Youth Action Councils are teaching adults, other youth, and young children about issues that matter to them. Some of these topics, including sex ed, environmentalism, and racism are at the core of major struggles today, while others are emerging issues.

Youth Grantmaking ― Young people are partnering with foundations and philanthropic organizations, as well as leading their own efforts, to raise funds and support causes that matter to them. This is happening through Youth Action Councils at the community level, nationally, and internationally.

Youth as Policy-Makers ― Youth Action Councils are active on the federal, state or provincial levels, and local levels around the world, making policy, informing elected and appointed officials, and evaluating decision-making that affects rules, guidelines, laws and regulations.

Tools for Youth + Social Change through Youth Action Councils

Motivation ― After years of being routinely disconnected from real activities that change the world, it can be challenging for youth to want to join Youth Action Councils, and when they do join them, it can be hard to feel inspired. Motivation can come through storytelling, action research, and other opportunities.

Training ― Simply being appointed, selected or choosing to be on a Youth Action Council does not make a youth capable of being successful. Careful self- and group assessments should be conducted to learn what skills are present in the group, and what needs introduced and developed.

Opportunities ― When an organization creates a Youth Action Council, it becomes essential to provide real, practical and obvious opportunities for that group to change the world. Developing SMART goals, identifying useful tools and other resources, and having Youth Advisory Councils conduct meaningful evaluations and reflect on their work midcourse and at the end of their projects is essential.


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The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher
The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!

Cultural Adultism

Cultural adultism is a very ambiguous, yet very prevalent, form of discrimination and intolerance towards youth.

Any restriction or exploitation of people because of their young age, as opposed to their ability, comprehension, or capacity, may be said to be adultist. These restrictions are often attributed to “better judgment”, the “wisdom of age”, or other popular age-related euphemism that is afforded to adults simply because of their age. Examples of where this plays out include:

  • Portrayal of youth as apathetic by media
  • Anti-youth store rules
  • Child abuse
  • Academic misconceptions of youth, supported by bad research
  • Ongoing commericalization of the culture young people partake in
  • Online filters
  • Corporal punishment
  • Literature
  • Child labor
  • Mass marketing of pre-packaged youth culture to youth and adults
  • Peer pressure
  • Child prostitution
  • Fashion controversies
  • Political and sociological scapegoating of youth
  • Stereotypes about youth subcultures
  • Teen sex
Time Magazine Cover
A very adultist magazine cover reflecting cultural bias towards adults, and discrimination against young people.

Causes of Cultural Adultism

Adultism is bias towards adults. Bias towards adults happens anytime the opinions, ideas, knowledge, beliefs, abilities, attitudes, or cultures of adults are held above those of people who aren’t considered adults because they’re not considered adults. Because of this, our very conception of childhood itself is adultism at work. Anyone who works professionally or lives in society with young people as an adult is inherently adultist.

Our adultist attitudes are primarily demonstrated as discrimination against children and youth. This comes across in our national, state, and local laws; educational, health, nutritional, and social policies; family norms; religious and spiritual beliefs; and social customs. Everything from the height of dinner tables to compulsory education passively and actively reflects adultism. Seeking to make the world into our vision of things, adults invented the phenomenon of childhood to ensure that kids were comprehensible and controllable. Because of that, the status of children has become passive, static, and predictable.

Does that make adults wrong or bad? Not all the time and not everywhere. There are times when, as an adult, I am discriminated against. Legally, I cannot go into a hospital and operate on someone, nor can I drive an 18-wheel semi-truck. Culturally, it is inappropriate for me to use a women’s changing room at a store or attend a self-help group for narcotics. None of those examples are inherently bad or wrong. They are intended to keep myself or others safe. Its the same with much well-meaning adultism that is intended to keep young people or others safe. If a building is burning down, as an adult I feel its my responsibility to grab everyone and make sure they’re out of the building, regardless of age.

However, in our society adults always act like the building is burning down. That’s what must change. People who want to change the miserable state of affairs facing the world must take action to stop adultism now. We must challenge the ineptitude of adults and their intransigence towards the changing abilities and roles of young people throughout society. We must push back against age-based assumptions that have nothing to do with the capacity of young people.

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1517641233/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1517641233&linkCode=as2&tag=thefreechildp-20&linkId=43XBKODOPHWZ46XW
Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

Institutional Adultism

Freechild Project youth at a summer camp in Seattle

Institutional adultism may be apparent in any instance of systemic bias where formalized limitations or demands are placed on people simply because of their young age. These limitations are often reinforced through physical force or police actions. This is increasingly seen as a form of gerontocracy, explained by James Carville when he wrote,

“This is not class warfare, this is generational warfare. This administration and old wealthy people have declared war on young people. That is the real war that is going on here. And that is the war we’ve got to talk about.”

From every report I have read, institutional adultism rages across our communities, and includes banks, courts, police, schools, nonprofits, churches, mosques, synagogues, and all levels of governments. I would summarize the effects of institutional adultism as:

  • Compulsory education
  • Access to contraceptives
  • Legalized corporal punishment
  • Curfew laws
  • Anti-youth loitering policies
  • Criminalization and demonization of youth via media
  • Voting age
  • Age of candidacy
  • Access to healthcare
  • Typecasting of youth by police
  • The Draft

Total institutions, which are the organizations in our society which dominate the entire being of a person, include the military, prisons, schools, and hospitals. Young people are affected by total institutions more than any other social group.

Ultimately, the normalization and legitimization of historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal dynamics that routinely advantage adults while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for young people is best summarized as institutional adultism.

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

Youth Action Library

Young people, community workers, classroom teachers, organizers, and others are often left lurching around the Internet looking for tools to promote youth taking action. Following is a whole library of free and cost publications, including books, articles, monographs, and more!

Involving young people in decisions is a way of showing respect, of saying their opinions and ideas count. To accomplish this, both youths and adults will need adequate preparation and training. Loring Leifer

Monographs, Articles and Books

  • The Freechild Project Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People — Centering on the “Cycle of Youth Engagement,” this publication is a summary of the social change issues and actions addressed by and with young people around the world. A great primer to the Freechild website.
  • 15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making — By Youth On Board. The essential information any organization needs to begin and develop their youth involvement program, this manual is the expert resource for organizations across the US and around the world. In more than 10 years Youth On Board has trained 1000s of young people and adults in youth voice and involvement, pushing the field five steps forward. This book is their finest collection of information available.
  • Youth Voice: A Guide for Engaging Youth in Leadership and Decision-Making in Service-Learning Programs — The purpose of this guide is to provide service learning practitioners with basic information on youth voice – how to engage youth in leadership and decision-making in programs. This guide highlights what youth voice is, why it is important and models of youth voice that have been implemented by service learning practitioners.
  • Making Commitments Matter: A Toolkit for young people to evaluate national youth policy — The Toolkit offers youth a starting point for determining what has been done to better the lives of young people since 1995. Take a look at this practical resource and put it to use in your community.
  • The Freechild Project Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change — by A. Fletcher with K. Kunst. This short booklet provides an insightful tool to help community workers, teachers, and activists of all ages incorporate initiatives, teambuilders, “funners,” and closing activities into their work for social change.
  • Navigating International Meetings: A pocketbook guide to effective youth participation — This guide gives concise information about the structure and process of United Nations meetings, looks at the different avenues available to youth for participating, and offers practical information for surviving a large meeting. The Guide also touches on important questions regarding the impact of international meetings on the local, national, and international level that every past and potential participant should consider.
  • Youth Service America Publications — YSA always offers easy-to-use interactive series of questions and templates that allow you and your friends to plan your service project or program. At the end, you will be able to print out your own Project Plan, Funding proposal, Press Release, Service-learning reflection plan, and other helpful resources.
  • Take Action! A Guide to Active Citizenship — by M. Keilburger and C. Keilburger.  An easy-to-use guide that provides young people with a readily-accessible plan for action.  Includes 7 steps to get involved, and a large “how-to” section for new activists.
  • The Kid’s Guide to Social Action — by Barbara A. Lewis. This is the first book of its kind to give a hopeful, energetic picture of young people taking action for social change. Features 10 steps for kids to take action, a long list of issues young people are addressing, and important how-tos.
  • Youth!: The 26% Solution — by Wendy Lesko.  This easy-to-read book provides a broad overview of young people taking action around the US in a variety of areas, and includes resources, tips, and stories to motivate action.
  •  Equal Partners: Organizing “For Youth by Youth” Events — by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Today’s young people are in a unique situation. Organizations, governments, and the population at large are recognizing that it’s absolutely vital to involve them in planning and organizing events and projects for young people. They are taking notice of not only what young people have to say, but of their awesome capabilities too. It can be challenging for adults to work side by side with young people. Young people are often unfamiliar with adult work settings, structures, and systems, which adults often manage easily, without thinking. While it’s true that young people lack the experience to fully comprehend the adult world, it’s also true that adults do not understand young people as they understand themselves. This guide is intended to support what, for many adults, will be a new way of working with youth. It will also assist young people in developing and running youth-focused events.
  • The Declaration of Accountability on the Ethical Engagement of Young People and Adults in Canadian Organizations — by First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. This document shares a wide-ranging perspective of youth involvement, calling for organizations and communities to see beyond past activities and to identify and practice powerful ethical approaches to engaging youth. Despite the reference to Canadian organizations, this document is useful communities around the world.
  • University of Kansas Community Toolbox — The Tool Box provides over 6,000 pages of practical skill-building information on over 250 different topics. Topic sections include step-by-step instruction, examples, check-lists, and related resources.
  • OxFam America’s Just Add Consciousness: Guide to Social Activism — This guide provides some basic strategies for activism. Before using any of these strategies, be sure that your group/organization has already done some groundwork, including researching and educating yourselves on the issue; identifying key people and institutions you are aiming to influence; setting clear, focused, and realistic goals and objectives.
  •  How To Be an Activist — How to be an Activist: An introduction and portal to activism, education, community involvement, and social change across the internet.

 

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1517641233/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1517641233&linkCode=as2&tag=thefreechildp-20&linkId=43XBKODOPHWZ46XW
Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

 

Youth Political Action Institute

The Freechild Project is excited to announce the availability of our Youth Political Action Institute. Designed to inspire, inform and empower young people ages 12 to 18, Freechild facilitates online workshops with powerful, positive and practical lessons that will change the lives of youth in your community!

Our institute covers five areas:

  • Motivation — Why is it absolutely essential for YOU to take action?!?
  • Knowledge-Sharing — You know what you know; now share it with others!
  • Skill-Building — Developing the POWER to create change is critical.
  • Action Planning — Learning how to DO SOMETHING takes commitment!
  • Reflection — Its not enough to just do stuff. You should learn about action with us.

Call The Freechild Project today to discuss costs, availability and more at (360) 489-9680 or email info@freechild.org.

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Quotes about Youth + Social Change

Freechild Project youth at a summer camp in Seattle

These quotes, both popular and unknown, may prove to be inspiring, thought- provoking insights that can inspire and motivate young people to take Action. Or, they may simply be words of wisdom or advice. Anyway you read them, remember the working motto of the Freechild Institute:

Only through action do words take meaning.

— Freechild Institute motto

Quotes on Social Change

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come to because your liberation is bound up in mine, we can work together.” — Lilla Watson

“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it’s humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.” — Eduardo Galeano

“Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

— Paulo Freire

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

“Yo, activism, attackin’ the system, the blacks and latins in prison Numbers of prison they victim lackin’ in the vision… Sh- — and all they got is rappin to listen to…” — Talib Kweli

“Its much more than being a farmer… you’re out to help people and make this little part of the world farm- able and productive, make your little street or block a better place, make the world healthier.” — A youth participant in GRuB


Quotes on Democracy

“The freedom and human capacities of individuals must be developed to their maximum but individual powers must be linked to democracy in the sense that social betterment must be the necessary consequence of individual flourishing.” — Henry Giroux

“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”

― Howard Zinn

“Darkness cannot drive out hate; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long- range risks and costs of comfortable inaction. — John F. Kennedy

“Students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” — Alfie Kohn

“Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.” – Paulo Freire


Quotes on Education

“It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. ” — Bertrand Russell

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

— Malala Yousafzai

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson, as written for Nelson Mandela.

“Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” — William Butler Yeats

“Without the voice of students, schools serve no purpose. They are nothing but institutions where adults run and tell you what you need to know in order to continue this tradition of, this cycle of “we have master’s degrees and we know what’s best for you so just shut up and deal with it.” — High school student, as quoted by Rubin and Silva

“We believe that to confront the challenges our communities face, people- — not just their advocates- — need to define issues and develop strategies for action. [We] foster leadership, literacy and language development among its participants and provides them an enriching job experience that prepares them for college and for careers in community organizing, advocacy and services delivery.” — Youth Action Research Group

“Students do not shed their constitutional rights… at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines

“Your life, time, and brain should belong to you, not to an institution.”

— Grace Lwellyn

“Students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” – Alfie Kohn


Quotes on Young People

“If we are to reach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with children.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“This is a time for bold measures. This is the country, and you are the generation.” — Bono

“You can never stop and as older people, we have to learn how to take leadership from the youth and I guess I would say that this is what I’m attempting to do right now.”

— Angela Davis

“Great changes in the destiny of mankind can be effected only in the minds of little children.” — Sir Herbert Read

“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” — Robert Kennedy.

“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they — at some distant point in the future — will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.” — Alvin Toffler

Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously. — Alfie Kohn

“We are all creative, but by the time we are three of four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.” — Maya Angelou

“Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.” — Albert Camus

“…the anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don’t know.” — John Holt

“A century that began with children having virtually no rights is ending with children having the most powerful legal instrument that not only recognizes but protects their rights.” — Carol Bellamy on the CRC

“The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them. … And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community.” — Carmen Martinez

“This is not class warfare, this is generational warfare. This administration and old wealthy people have declared war on young people. That is the real war that is going on here. And that is the war we’ve got to talk about.”

– James Carville

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person… Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

“The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown… The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be re-established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on the answers.” — Margaret Mead


Quotes on Youth Involvement

“Our youth are not failing the system; the system is failing our youth. Ironically, the very youth who are being treated the worst are the young people who are going to lead us out of this nightmare.” — Rachel Jackson

“Rather than standing or speaking for children, we need to stand with children speaking for themselves. We don’t need a political movement for children… [we need to] build environments and policies for our collective future.”

— Sandra Meucci

“If you had a problem in the Black community, and you brought in a group of White people to discuss how to solve it, almost nobody would take that panel seriously. In fact, there’d probably be a public outcry. It would be the same the for women’s issues or gay issues. But every day, in local arenas all the way to the White House, adults sit around and decide what problems youth have and what youth need, without ever consulting us.” — Jason, 17 years old, Youth Force Member, Bronx, NY

“If it is clear youth will be encouraged and listened to, and preparations are well thought out, you are set up for success… Having youth on boards and commissions has been a rewarding experience for everyone involved. Youth feel their voice is valued and that they have an impact on city decisions. Adult members benefit from the fresh perspective, optimism, and enthusiasm youth bring to the table.” — Matt McCarte

“Youth involvement has moved forward. It is no longer seen as a rebellious act, the way it was a few decades ago.” — Maureen A. Sedonaen

“…Youth voice is crucial to the overall effectiveness of service- learning programs. Youth voice has a tremendous impact on program participation and program outcomes, both short term and long term.” — Education Commission of the States

“We all benefit by having young people exposed to the ‘way things are done’ in a democratic society. Isn’t it time… to ‘tap the power of youth?'” — Hans Bernard

“I raise my voice not so that i can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” ― Malala Yousafzai

“What kind of twisted message do we send when we tell youth they are judged mature, responsible adults when they commit murder, but silly, brainless kids when they want to vote?… Lowering the voting age is the just, fair way to set things straight.” — National Youth Rights Association

“Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.”

 — Alfie Kohn

“There’s a radical – and wonderful – new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world. Its an idea with revolutionary implications. If we take it seriously.” — Deborah Meier


Quotes on Adults

“It used to be believed that the parent had unlimited claims on the child and rights over him. In a truer view of the matter, we are coming to see that the rights are on the side of the child and the duties on the side of the parent.” — William G. Sumner

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Today’s ephebiphobia is the latest installment of a history of bogus moral panics targeting unpopular subgroups to obscure an unsettling reality: Our worst social crisis is middle- Americans own misdirected fear.” — Mike Males

“The young, no doubt, make mistakes; but the old, when they try to think for them, make even greater mistakes.” ― Bertrand Russell

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up… We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” ― Maya Angelou

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

“My message is that we’ll be watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering.”

― Greta Thunberg

“All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” — John Holt


Quotes on Youth

“I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” — Allen Ginsberg

“[Did they] use your years to psyche you out; you’re too old to care, you’re too young to count?” — Indigo Girls

“We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.”

— Greta Thunberg

“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand, your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.” — Bob Dylan

“Kids, I wish every mom and dad would make a speech to their teenagers and say, ‘Kids, be free, be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do, just as long as you don’t hurt anybody. And remember kids, I am you friend.'” — from the musical Hair.

“…we condemned them, our children, for seeking a different future. We hated them for their flowers, for their love, and for their unmistakeable rejection of every hideous, mistaken compromise that we had made throughout our hollow, money- bitten, frightened, adult lives. — June Jordan


Protest Slogans

Youth can be the leaders of tomorrow — if we procrastinate.

Ain’t no power like the power of youth cos the power of youth don’t stop!

If you must dream of the world you want to live in, dream out loud!

Youth are the solution — not the problem! Nothing about us without us is for us.


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