The future is not about the children – it is the children. It is about time we listen to their authentic, genuine voices. They are thoughtful, they are creative, they are resilient, and they have more at stake than the rest of us, because the policies we adopt and the choices we collectively make today shape their future.
As a youth advocate, it is heartening to see the media and the public finally pay attention to the words and actions of our children and youth following the tragedy in Parkland. For those of us who work with students, the fact that their voices are so powerful and effective is no surprise. The Afterschool Alliance has been showcasing their voices in the halls of Congress and around the country for years. Sadly, it took this tragedy for the rest of the country to notice.
This is the beginning. I urge youth around the country to continue to speak out, demand to be heard and take action on all the issues and policies that impact our collective future. Adults need to listen, let our youth take the lead, and follow up with meaningful action. As youth-serving programs and organizations, we need to do everything we can to promote these youth voices and give our young people the tools and resources they need to ensure their voices are heard.
For the first time, the Afterschool Alliance has selected five extraordinary youth to serve as our youth Ambassadors. We are providing them with media training and opportunities to make sure their voices are heard. You can learn more about them on our November blog post, “Introducing our inaugural class of Youth Afterschool Ambassadors.” These extraordinary students are coming to Washington next month to show members of Congress why support for afterschool is so essential.
It’s our role as educators to help our children and youth build their confidence and hone their voices. We want them to speak out against injustice, to raise their voices to those in power, to be respectful of others and, most importantly, to know that with hard work and effort their actions can make our world and our country a better, safer place full of promise for all.