Youth Activism Project campaigns are fully youth-led. Youth Activism Project provides support and resources, such as providing background information on the bills, coaching students on statements, arranging transportation to town halls and state capitols, and providing space for debriefing and celebration. But in the end, our youth leaders call the shots. They decide on the problem they want to solve and what actions to take.
Global Girls’ Education
The Youth Advocacy Group at Mayfield Woods Middle School in Elkridge, Maryland continues to dream up and realize inventive activities that focus on girls around the world who are denied an education. On June 1, 2018, Sharvari, Sofia and Sahara presented an interactive workshop at the “Voices for Change” conference sponsored by the Howard County Public Schools System. Their postcard campaign is a great example of art activism, which they describe in their blog on the School Girls Unite website:
One of our group members, Anjali. designed a picture to go on every postcard. It shows a picture of a girl dreaming of all the things that she can accomplish. If you decide that a postcard campaign is something you would like to participate in, too, we encourage other groups to support the Keeping Girls in School Act and ask their US Senators to co-sponsor this legislation.”
Another major achievement in 2018 was the Youth Advocacy Group planned and organized a countywide summit that included a dozen student-led workshops for 100 young activists.
Two bills supported by the NRA were defeated in April 2018. Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence credited five students who spent eight hours at the State House in Annapolis. These #NeverAgain activists wrote and delivered compelling testimony. Ella G., a rising senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, describes:
As one of the only students in the [House Judiciary Committee] room, I was struck by the feeling of watching people who were so removed from the student experience debate policies that would directly affect me, my classmates, and my teachers.”
To read about this impactful advocacy along with a meeting with US Senator Rubio’s legislative aide, check out Ella’s blog.
Food and water justice
Youth Uplifting Health! is a campaign founded by students at John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Their most recent campaign is to get filtered water bottle refill stations near the cafeteria, the gym, and other key locations. YUH! conducted a survey of 200 students and staff, investigated the popularity of refill stations at other high schools, compared different products, and examined the environmental footprint of bottled water. Their five-page proposal that they shared in a June 5th meeting with school administration (pictured above) spells out a clear demand:
Our group members have learned that filtered refill stations are becoming standard and are valued equally by students and faculty. This mutually beneficial proposition will allow our entire school to enjoy cold, clean, filtered water which shouldn’t be a privilege, but a right.”
Over the summer, YUH! will continue its dialogue with the principal with the goal of getting at least two refill stations installed before the next school year.
Last year, this group focused on access to healthy food and drinks. They contacted all members of the Montgomery County Council repeatedly asking for their support for the Healthy Vending Act. Despite opposition by the beverage and snack food lobbyists, their testimony helped passed this ordinance, which now requires vending machines at libraries, rec centers, and other government buildings to offer 50% fewer unhealthy drinks and snacks.
LOWER VOTING AGE
Miles Carr, a rising high school junior from Kensington, MD, gained even more confidence to launch a #Vote16 campaign after the student walkouts following the Parkland school shooting. His initial action was to speak to the Town Council during public announcements. Miles testified that:
Takoma Park, Hyattsville, and Greenbelt now let 16-year-olds vote and I want that here, too.”
Instead of nodding their heads, Council members asked lots of questions but this 10th grader earned their respect. The Mayor plans to schedule hearings in the next month and in the meantime, this young activist and his friends plan to follow up with answers and more information to keep the momentum going.
The Youth Activism Project is connecting DC students with www.Vote16DC.org about participating the June 27 hearing on legislation supported by a majority of the Councilmembers. Many arguments for extending voting rights are highlighted in our blog about the 2016 youth-led campaign in San Francisco that lost by a narrow margin.
Youth Activists Unite is an after-school club at Hammond High School in Columbia, Maryland that is dedicated to identifying local issues and advocating for solutions. This year, their focus is on sex trafficking in Howard County. Their goals are to:
- Raise awareness of sex trafficking.
- Reach out to and support local organizations fighting sex trafficking.
- Support and lobby for legislation at both county and state levels that create stronger penalties for sex trafficking, support victims of sex trafficking, and prevent sex trafficking.
One of the YAU leaders is Julia Moyer, a rising sophomore. She demonstrated her activism throughout middle school when she advocated year after year for gender equality for girls globally with School Girls Unite. Julia developed and facilitated a workshop at a youth-led countywide summit and wrote a guide titled “How To Make Your Letter to Lawmakers Stand Out.” Her activism with School Girls Unite is featured in the award-winning book, Wonder Girls.