Leadership from Youth Today

This is the banner for Adam F.C. Fletcher's website

Leadership from Youth Today

There seems to be discontent and crises everywhere today. The climate is a catastrophe, democracy is threatened, and our communities continue to struggle. The pandemic rages on, politics are more divisive than in generations, and the economy vacillates wildly. A continuously weaving thread of possibility weaves together each of these challenges though.

Last week, I facilitated a conversation with youth from one of our programs in Compton, California, and another in Preston, United Kingdom. More than 20 young people ages 11 through 19 participated, all with one thing in common: They are working to change the world right now.

Screen Shot 2021-06-08 at 9.49.12 AM.png

The students in Compton are working to support technology integration in their middle school, addressing issues of socio-economic disparity, bridging the digital divide, and creating community among diverse learners. The youth in Preston are organizing campaigns against period poverty, for LGBTTQQ awareness, and against ignorance and suffering. All of these young people are crossing borders and boundaries, creating new realities and challenging apathy and indifference. Their powers are steadily increasing as they change hearts and minds, shift policies and politics, and transform their generation through action.

This was yet another occasion for me to find hope with youth. Despite the apparent inability of adults to solve the most serious problems facing our world today, these learners and leaders are moving the needle through constant action, steady commitment, and empowered reflection. They’re using resources from Youth and Educators Succeeding and creating their own tools. Creating and accumulating knowledge and skills, they’re sharing with their peers and parents to help others. Ultimately, they’re shifting the future we will all share with practical, pragmatic, powerful action that will change all of our lives.

Listening to these youth last week reminded me that leadership from youth might be the very best pathway forward in our lives, whether in our schools, throughout our communities, or around the world. What do you hear when you listen?

You Might Like…

Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.

Exciting Youth Activism

People get excited watching the news. Like playing a fiddle, newscasters portray very depressing, very upsetting and slightly uplifting events as if they were regular, everyday events. Youth activism has fallen prey to this.

Using young activists as exceptional fodder to capture the attention of viewers and readers, sources including social media, newspapers, websites and television have taken comfort in knowing whenever they show a certain 16-year-old activist they’ll upset particular viewers into calling, emailing or responding somehow.

These same sources quickly post the latest protests, highlighting the picket signs and skin colors of the youth protesters. They are pulling on heartstrings of supporters, and pushing the buttons of haters.

Exciting youth activists aren’t to blame for this either. This isn’t a call to “get those kids off the stage.” Instead, I want to challenge the media to stop sensationalizing and tokenizing youth activism. This doesn’t mean they should normalize it, but it also means that they should quit with the alienation and separation of youth activists in the media. Infantilizing youth activists has to quit, too; when a large school district recently gave youth one day off yearly for civic engagement, a lot of media wrangled their hands at overwhelming the kids. Apparent indifference is no answer either, as was the media’s response to 20 years of activism before today.

Let’s move away from all the bogus responses to youth activism, and instead increase peaceful, kind and accepting responses that will benefit us all.

You Might Like…

The Role of Culture in Youth Action

Culture can seem like a hard thing to understand. We know that it includes the arts, like music and painting and sculpture. We know it includes our appearances, including whether we’re gender conforming, which clothes we have on, how we style our hair (or lack thereof!). Culture can be the songs, stories, beliefs, attitudes and abilities we share with others. It can mean a lot more, too.

Youth action happens in a lot of different ways, too. Consciously, connectedly and deliberately, young people around the world are organizing themselves, younger and older people to make a difference in so many different ways.

Culture connects youth action to longer traditions that are more inherent within society. By tapping into these rich veins of connectedness, children and youth build culture and change the world at the same time. Here are some examples of youth action through culture:

It’s about time we look for opportunities to do this work intentionally. Only when understand the power of culture can we truly make a difference.

You Might Like…