By DFA Youth Organizers Najran Jeffers and Precious Owens
As Whitney Houston said in Greatest Love of All, “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way!” The only reason we’ve come so far from sticks and stones is because since the beginning of human consciousness our main goal has been to raise and protect our youth. It’s important to teach them the tools they need to succeed.
We need to motivate younger generations to know how to become great leaders and to stand up for what they believe in. The children are our future, so we have to make sure that they play a part in shaping that future.
Children will grow up and have to eventually deal with adult issues; educating the youth and getting their opinion on issues that affect their everyday life is very important. There are lots of issues that affect youth; like gun control, environmental justice, immigration, women’s rights, racial justice, and higher education costs. We want to empower the youth to think about these issues now so they can make informed decisions when they are older.
There a several youth led organizations and movements such as: March for Our Lives, a youth gun control movement that stemmed from the Parkland, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting; United We Dream, one of the largest youth led immigrant network in the country; and Florida Student Power Network, a group that harness the power of students and youth to create tangible change in our communities and our country.
Even with groups like these, youth engagement is not as high as we would like it to be. In Florida, there are over 100,000 registered 18-year-old voters and only 4,733 18-year-old voters showed up to vote in 2020. That is less than 5 percent of 18-year-old registered voters.
Democracy For Youth led a youth workshop on civic engagement and had the students that participated take a survey to see how much they know about civic engagement. Only 22 percent of the youth had an understanding of what civic engagement is, and of the other 78 percent, 52 percent had some understanding while the remaining 26 percent had none.
Youth civic engagement is important because not enough youth have a space to talk about issues that affect them. That’s why Democracy For Youth (DeFY) was created. DeFY hosts a monthly meeting for youth to express themselves and speak on issues that affect them. We will be ending the year with a youth summit to center around solutions from a youth perspective. A child’s place is to grow up and learn to be an adult in a safe environment, and part of that is learning how to engage in these discussions.
DFA Youth Organizer
DFA Youth Organizer