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Youth Organize and Use the Web to Speak Out for Change and Action

10/5/2001:   Increasingly, youth learn and communicate electronically. In response to recent events, youth in numerous school, neighborhood, and religious groups have—often through computer communications— organized community vigils and raised money for relief efforts. They also have developed chat rooms or turned to websites like http://youth.haguepeace.org. [in five languages] and www.youthnoise.com to discuss the effects of violence, peace studies, and international initiatives.

Young people can be very influential with their peers, younger peers, parents, the press, the private sector, politicians, and other policymakers. Several organizations serve as clearinghouses for youth communication, action, and advocacy on a variety of topics.

Following are two examples of community activities geared toward youth.

Activism 2000 Project (www.youthactivism.com) or call toll-free 1-800/Kid-Power, began in 1992 as a private, nonpartisan organization to encourage youth to speak up and pursue lasting solutions to problems that deeply concern them. The project (1) offers advice to youth so that they can transform their ideas into practical proposals; (2) convinces community, business, and government leaders to take the ideas and solutions offered by youth seriously, and (3) promotes youth participation in advisory councils, citizen task forces, and community agencies. To assist youth in making their voices heard, the website’s Resource Central lists more than 100 contacts and links to other websites (fundraising leads, organizations with boards that include youth, and national media outlets). The Activism 2000 Project also offers workshops, videos, handbooks, and toolkits.

In San Francisco, Youth Making a Change (Y-MAC; see www.colemanadvocates.org/AAYouthMake.htm) began 10 years ago when Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth recruited 15 youth to serve in their community as dedicated advocates for other youth as they became politically aware and active. Y-MAC offers the Youth Alert newsletter; training workshops; collaboration and web links with other regional youth groups; and special events and conferences for youth. Now a model youth leadership program, Y-MAC has spawned similar youth-led groups throughout the city and the country, ensuring that youth voices are heard in City Hall, schools, the media, and their own communities. Recently, the Harvard Family Research Project reported Y-MAC’s effectiveness in transforming information into positive change. Available online at http:// www.gse.harvard.edu/~hfrp/eval/issue16/taj.html, the article notes that the group’s campaigns have resulted in both improved city-funded youth centers and seven new school-based wellness centers.

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