By: Wintre Foxworth Johnson
- Youth-Nex recently hosted their 8th conference entitled Pass the Mic: Amplifying Youth Voice & Agency, co-chaired by Drs. Wintre Foxworth Johnson and Nancy Deutsch.
- In this Pass the Mic blog series, we are highlighting each of the sessions from the conference and in future posts including youth voices to summarize and reflect on what was discussed.
- In this first blog, co-chair Dr. Johnson introduces this blog series and shares our first session on “Youth Voice and Agency in the 21st Century: A Dialogue Among Young People.”
Adults often talk about youth as “the future.” That, however, is a partial truth. Many of the issues that adults debate and the policies that we create affect young people’s day-to-day lives, arguably more than they do our own. Young people are the present as much as they are the future, and we need their ideas. They should have a say in how we think about social issues and what we do to address them.
At Youth-Nex, we take a strengths-based approach to youth development. And every day we are amazed by the ingenuity, energy, and hope of youth as they tackle the problems they see in the world. Part of being an adolescent is forming an identity that includes a sense of meaning and purpose. We see young people enacting that meaning and purpose, often within systems that do not value their voices or expertise.
Youth voice and agency were central to the recent convening. Throughout Youth-Nex’s 8th conference, we heard from young people and adults who are actively working to amplify the voices of youth across the systems that shape their lives. Our goal is for everyone to approach the issues affecting youth with new eyes because they are complex and require all our experiences, expertise, and ideas. We want adults to not only see but also engage youth as true partners in working for change!
The first session of the conference grounded us in youth voices. This panel was moderated by Zyahna Bryant, an activist and community organizer, and included all youth panelists. We asked: Are young people ready to lead and if so, in what ways? How do we center and uplift youth voices in the 21st century? What are action-oriented steps to support youth? Listen to this session and learn more.
In this blog series, we will share each of the sessions from the conference with an accompanying young person’s perspective who attended the conference. Listen to these sessions, hear these youth voices, and consider how you can “pass the mic”!
Stay tuned to this Pass the Mic blog series to learn more about:
- Social & Justice Systems,
- Youth Voice & Agency in Schools,
- Health & Well-being,
- Politics, Organizing & Civic Engagement, and
- Programs that Elevate Youth Voice & Agency.
If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.
Author Bio: Dr. Wintre Foxworth Johnson’s scholarship lies at the nexus of sociocultural literacy studies, critical race scholarship, and critical pedagogies for and with young children. Her research has two primary aims: to examine the relationship between literacy teaching and learning in race-conscious and social justice-oriented elementary educational contexts; to investigate the sociopolitical development of children from historically marginalized communities, with a particular focus on Black children’s educational experiences, racial awareness, and experiential knowledge.