Adult Allies

Strategic Planning:  EXPERT CONSULTING 

Wendy Schaetzel Lesko launched this national clearinghouse over two decades ago and knows firsthand of young advocates involved in public health, education reform, environmental issues, gender equity, violence, youth suffrage and other movements. Wendy’s knowledge is completely unique because of her long-term work on many issues and collaborating wih hundreds of local and national organizations. Based on your mission and objectives, Wendy can draw on successful models of meaningful youth engagement, lessons from different campaigns in big cities and small towns, effective tactics ranging from photovoice to testifying. She is committed to share her expertise and provide technical assistance at various stages to increase the impact of your youth-led adult-supported advocacy campaign:

  • STRATEGIC PRE-LAUNCH: Consult in development of your gameplan with senior staff and youth
  • SHORT-TERM TROUBLESHOOTING: Reassess initial objectives, partnerships, intergenerational dynamics
  • SUSTAIN MOMENTUM: Move from stuck to gaining traction through recruitment, short-term progress, etc.

To discuss a variety of consulting packages, please contact us.


Adults serve as catalysts and connective tissue with diverse youth to create a powerful advocacy engine for community change. This hands-on training, facilitated by author and youth engagement expert Wendy Schaetzel Lesko, includes these four objectives to strengthen . . .

  • SKILLS: “Third Ear,” group inclusivity, advocacy tactics, online organizing
  • STORYTELLING: True examples to counter powerlessness and advance ideation
  • SATISFACTION: Professional and personal growth, burnout prevention, etc.
  • SUCCESS: Youth Gravitas, community mobilization, concrete change and more

Wendy will customize the content to cover your specific policy priorities and concentrate on certain challenges identified by participants. This interactive workshop can be tailored for 3 hours or a full day, developed as a train-the-trainer module or distilled into an inspiring keynote presentation. Wendy’s knowledge and passion are grounded in running a national clearinghouse that champions the unique impact of young advocates as well as lessons she learns daily in collaborating with School Girls Unite activists since 2004.

One stick of dynamite can boom loud enough to shake the dust for miles. A determined advocate’s effort can reverberate across the world.  Wendy taught me that.  – Eliana S., 17

While the rhetoric promoting youth participation is not new, few researchers and institutions have mined the intergenerational partnership model illustrated by Lesko.  – Anthony Bernier, PhD, editor of Transforming Young Adult Services

Please contact online to discuss your training objectives and programmatic goals. Here are a few excerpts from Wendy’s latest toolkit, Catalyst! Successful Strategies to Empower Young Advocates.

Catalytic Traits + Synergistic Sharing = Real Change

The most talented adult allies are imaginative, charismatic, passionate, savvy individuals who relate easily with young people and aren’t afraid to shake the bushes. They have a genuine respect and natural affinity with distinct age groups—specifically preteens, older adolescents and young adults. Experience in community organizing is a major bonus.  Intergenerational collaboration is not about deferring to nor commandeering young activists.

Adult allies can plant seeds about pending proposals and other opportunities that can encourage youth to build on their community activism or service-learning volunteerism to pursue systemic change.  Here are a few examples from Catalyst! that demonstrate how a deliberate process of sharing information and advocacy strategies can maximize youth impact and result in real change.

  • Studies & Trends.  Youth Empowered Solutions (YES) senior staff shared with their high school and college age employees a Cornell University study and the so-called Smarter Lunchroom Movement. In the spring of 2012, YES students at their NC school developed an action plan to redesign their cafeteria and identified key stakeholders. Their meetings involved the school principal, cafeteria workers and Child Nutrition Services staff. The changes, much to the students’ surprise, happened over the summer. This victory solidified the determination of these young advocates to tackle other nutrition issues.
  •  Participatory Action Research. In a California neighborhood with no grocery store, youth active with Literacy for Environmental Justice visited nearly a dozen mom and pop stores. They drew diagrams showing how space was used for different types of items, revealing that packaged foods consumed nearly half of the space, alcohol and tobacco dominated about one quarter of the shelves, and only two to five percent had fresh produce and other healthy food. They collaborated with a county official and community organizations to create the Good Neighbor program to provide incentives to stores that devote at least 10 percent of space for healthy foods. This initiative became a model, resulting in the Healthy Food Purchase Program which became state law.
  • Art Activism.  Caged Birds Sing is a 18-page booklet written by girls at a juvenile justice facility, published by the Maryland ACLU. Unlike most reports that use graphs, quotes or photographs to enhance the content, every page makes a statement with their artwork. Caged Birds Sing concludes with 41 specific policy recommendations and ultimately state juvenile justice authorities adopted three of their most significant proposals. Their gifted adult ally writes in the preface: “I cannot stress enough how completely this report is that of the girls themselves…I simply typed up their comments and strung them together, making minor changes or additions for tone, clarity and consistency only when necessary.”
  • City or State Proclamations.  FAIR Girls in Washington, D.C. decided to use the annual girls’ rights day as a way to develop ties with their city councilmember. An intergenerational team drafted a proposed proclamation for the U.N. International Day of the Girl drawing attention to sex trafficking. Their elected representative agreed to be the sponsor the proclamation which was presented at a FAIR Girls event. This initial strategy is part of the long-term goal of cultivating him as their champion to increase prevention and treatment services related to sex trafficking.
  • Legislation.  Peer educators with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence also educated their state lawmakers. In close collaboration with adult staff and other advocates, this intergenerational campaign got a new law on the books. The statute mandates that school districts include healthy relationships and teen dating violence prevention in the health education curriculum for grades 7-12.
  • Online Organizing & Crowdfunding.  Sixto Cancel, whose belongings were tossed into a garbage bag each time he moved from one foster home to another, collaborated with the charity Together We Rise. In addition to raising money to provide suitcases or duffel bags for youth in foster care, Sixto started an online petition to ask the Connecticut Department of Children and Families “to enact a policy requiring all regional foster care agencies to make a valid attempt to provide all children entering the foster care system or transitioning for the first time between foster homes with duffel bags and not trash bags.” Sixto also has co-founded an international scale effort called Fostering Global Resilience.

Please visit our Publications page to order this 75-page toolkit for adults. Please contact online directly about customized trainings.