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Amplifying Youth Voice in Advocacy

By YWCA Minneapolis
October 11, 2022
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Dialogue about crime, white supremacy and bail reform can often be coarse—heard as blaring voices on cable news or seen in newsprint as no-holds-barred editorials—but let us pause and listen to the children. YWCA Minneapolis is doing just that, centering youth in a summer camp devoted to advocacy and action and now gearing up to launch a school-year version of the aptly named Youth in Action.

Advocacy for whom, for what?

Middle and high schoolers are both participants AND paid peer leaders of the program—making this camp a standout endeavor and setting it a part from traditional camps. The work of our youth is further supported by our Girls and Youth coordinators, joined by our Racial Justice and Public Policy staff, who serve as expert-level sponsors—guiding them through issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, transportation justice, the wage gap and women’s mental health.

Not on the Fringes

As they converged this summer on the campuses of Franklin and FAIR schools over the course of six weeks, students arrived to hear guest speakers share insights on how to amplify their voice and what it takes be a community organizer. Adults at this camp gave the gift of acknowledgment—recognizing the simple fact that youth are not on the fringes of strife, but in the middle of it with insights of their own to share and with voices, too often, unheard.

Art as Advocacy

Youth also explored justice movements connected to art and produced their own creative works showcasing their path to activism. Projects included screen printing and issue trees. They also used visualization to explore roles in different movements.

“Youth have a unique vision and perspective about the world that I think we as adults often ignore. To be able to witness young people discuss and brainstorm what our world could look like and actions that they can take to get to that world is energizing.” —Kenzie Engel, GY Contact Plus Coordinator

Passion as a Zine

The summer program culminated with youth choosing their own passion issues to explore and contribute to a collective zine about topics that resonated with them. Success of the camp has spurred YWCA Minneapolis to excitedly prepare for a school-year version. Know a young person who struggling to make sense of the world? Or one who has great insights to share? Have them sign up to be a paid, peer leader in our school-year program! Be sure to scroll to bottom of page for the Youth in Action application.

“I am focused on supporting efforts like Youth in Action that connect with, inspire and engage young people to help them find their voices and explore their potential to drive change.” —Kim Nelson, Former YWCA Minneapolis Board Chair

Deep appreciation goes to both Kim Nelson and her husband Stafford for their added financial support of this program and its framework which allows students to shine in their leadership and activism.

“Donations ensure we can give meaningful recognition in the form of stipends to our high school leaders as compensation for their invaluable labor—educating, informing and instilling confidence in a new crop of social justice leaders.” —Luna Allen-Bakerian, YWCA Minneapolis Racial Justice Public Policy Strategist

Read more in the zine produced by our camp youth and staff!

Donate to YWCA Minneapolis

Sign up for Youth in Action!