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 public speaking, bouncing around ideas, 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.
Currently, we have a focus on youth-led education equity and mental health advocacy. (In fact, we are in the process of building a National Mental Health Coalition. Click here to learn more!) Although teens do not need focus on mental health or education to join our network, we have highlighted some of the campaigns working on these two issues below (click or scroll to learn more):
- STEPS (Montgomery County, MD)
- Strings4Smiles (New York, NY)
- Sophrosyne Mental Health (Lexington, MA)
- Healthy Right (Denville, NJ)
- Youth Up Health! (Silver Spring, MD)
- Archnova Mental Health Campaign (Issaquah, WA)
STEPS (MONTGOMERY County, MD)
STEPS (Students Toward Equitable Public Schools) isa youth organization run by students in the Montgomery County Public School District of Maryland. Their goal is to end the current de-facto segregation found in their schools and to fight for an equitable system benefiting all students, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background.
"We've seen that separate isn't really equal. We're fighting to end that.”
Check out their site to learn more about their work in persuading the school board to conduct a boundary analysis, and their school board member endorsements! If you live in Montgomery County and want to join the fight, Click Here!
Strings4Smiles (New York, NY)
Strings4Smiles is a youth organization run by NYC high school students. Project Music4All works with community centers in the Bronx, NY to create musical opportunities for minorities and underserved families. Our team of dedicated volunteers teach students everything from music history to music theory.
"Music also gives many kids a purpose and gives them their own form of creative expression, helping to reduce the school to prison pipeline. Every child has the potential to become a talented musician, and every child deserves the same opportunities to get there.”
Music4All also plans to create this same opportunity in schools in Sri Lanka, where many kids can only dream of owning an instrument. To learn more about Strings4Smiles, view their statement here and visit their site here!
Sophrosyne mental health (Lexington, MA)
The goal of Sophrosyne Mental Health is to work towards legislative action and systematic changes that prioritize mental health as important as physical health. The above mini-documentary showcases their efforts to push for S.244, a bill that would provide mental health education in schools alongside physical health. Emily Weinberg, the founder of Sophrosyne, says:
The Youth Activism Project has been a major source of support helping me manage deadlines and providing guidance with weekly phone calls so I was able to juggle a lot of tasks. I’ve grown a lot as an activist and I want to empower other youth.
Although Covid-19 has cancelled their plans to host their second annual Mental Health Rally this May, they are currently organizing a virtual rally in it's place. Along with info on this rally, check out their site to see all the mental health resources they have created.
Healthy Right (Denville, NJ)
Healthy Right is a non-profit, youth led organization that envisions a society with reduced health care rates that allows all youth to get the healthcare they need. To make this possible, teens and community members are encouraged to get involved and solve today's public health issues such as nutrition, physical activity, mental health, and more. Above, they are pictured leading a community discussion about mental health resources for teens! Click Here to learn more about their work!
Youth up health! (Silver spring, md)
Youth Up Health! (YUH!) 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 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) talks about how investing in water filtration systems is a matter of environmental, racial, and socioeconomic justice:
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.”
Victory! The school system listened to YUH! and two refill stations are installed and two more are on order. 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.
archnova mental health campaign (Issaquah, WA)
This mission of the Archnova Mental Health Campaign is to create "simple yet in depth solutions to aid students’ mental health through implementing mental health programs in schools." This team has interviewed students and staff, completed a survey, produced a video and now is working with their state legislator on a bill to strengthen access to mental health services across the state. According to 16-year-old Seika Brown, the founder of Archnova:
I know my generation. They are dedicated individuals who want to make a difference. But it’s hard because we’re kids, and people don’t take us seriously..but YAP has given me and my friends the opportunity to do things, to get up and make a change.
Victory! Archnova successfully lobbied for a Youth Suicide Prevention bill, which they helped draft. This bill expanded crisis training and resources to all schools in Washington state. After being incorporated into larger education legislation, it passed through both houses of state congress, and was signed into law by Governor Inslee in May 2019! Check out their other amazing accomplishments as well.