By Ashley Higgs, a 4th year student at UVA.
- Providing opportunities for youth to give their perspectives, share ideas and speak their opinions is an important part of development.
- Youth-Speak is a blog and video resource platform for youth by youth
- Using videos from Youth-Speak, I helped create a new website for adult researchers, parents, educators and more who want to explore youth voice.
Follow Ashley as she takes over the Youth-Nex Instagram account to share more about her experience in creating the Youth-Speak website! Watch the highlights of her stories saved under ‘Take Overs’ in our profile.
As a rising fourth year at UVA majoring in Economics, I was interested in broadening my involvement across campus and gaining more skills as I graduate and enter the job market. Last fall, I started working with Youth-Nex, and one of my first projects was helping reinvigorate and relaunch a blog on youth voice.
What is Youth Voice?
I was not familiar with the term “Youth Voice,” so I began by researching. I found out quickly that it is what it sounds like, or “the perspectives, ideas, experiences, knowledge, and actions of young people.” But, why is youth voice important? The benefit of youth voice goes beyond understanding how youth think and behave from a social, developmental, and psychological perspective.
Allowing youth the platform to speak their own ideas, opinions, and advice to others is transformative in itself.
Giving young people the opportunity to express themselves, and further, respecting their thoughts and ideas, is valuable for individual and social youth development. Youth should be involved in the decisions and discussions that will shape their future.
Youth-Speak is an online video resource blog created by Youth-Nex that spotlights the voices of many young people in the Charlottesville area over the past ten years. This extensive video archive shows middle and high school aged youth speaking on a range of subjects, from school and discipline to relationships and gossip. These videos were developed as a resource for youth and by youth. Whether it be to hear other peers speak about overcoming challenges, learning how to develop confidence, or tell personal stories of inspiration, these videos were developed for youth as a resource to seek advice and support from individuals their own age.
I wanted to discover how these resource rich videos could be used to highlight the youth voice from an adult perspective. I wanted to go beyond the youth lens and apply the adult lens to the youth voice.
In order to do this, I needed to better understand how existing youth voice platforms display their content, target an audience, and elevate actual youth voices. One site, Youth Speaks, offers youth a platform for artistic verbal expression. Specifically, it seeks to make the connection between poetry, spoken word, youth development and civic engagement. Another platform, Youth Voice, serves as a discussion-based blog where youth can write and publish their own ideas, share posts with peers, and engage in online discussions with others. Many resources I found were designed for youth engagement and interaction. But, my challenge would be how to highlight the importance of youth voice to adults.
Adults Using Youth-Speak, a New Resource
After researching existing youth voice sites, I dove into the Youth-Speak videos with the questions of “how would this video be valuable for an adult researcher” and “what topics would parents, teachers, etc. care most about?” With an “adult lens” in mind, I watched every video, taking notes on the content and subjects. Specifically, what I, as a young adult, thought would appeal to an older adult. I found that I empathized with much of the video content, since I was in high school not that long ago.
After watching and streamlining the videos into more condensed categories, I developed a plan on how we could create a new resource or website that highlighted some of these videos for parents, educators and adult researchers. I selected around twenty videos that:
- I thought would be valuable from an adult perspective, and
- That spoke to me the most from the youth perspective.
With the Youth-Nex team, we decided on four categories with four videos each:
- School Challenges,
- Demonstrating Commitment and Determination,
- Finding Yourself and Identity, and
- Coming Out.
We also chose two videos, “What Matters Is Being True To Yourself,” and “Persisting and Staying Positive” to highlight at the beginning of the blog. We chose these four categories because we thought the subject matter would be most impactful for an adult to hear from a young person. And further, we believe these videos can demonstrate to an adult why elevating youth voice is important.
Today we are launching this new website for adults that highlight some videos from the Youth-Speak blog. Eight different youth are represented, each with different experiences, stories, and advice. The personal challenges, stories of inspiration, and advice these youth offer have not only benefitted their peers, but will now have the opportunity to benefit adults in their exploration of the youth voice.
After completing this project, I have learned just how important it is to respect someone’s voice, no matter their age. If you are interested in exploring more of the videos, there are hundreds of the original Youth-Speak videos and interviews on Youth-Nex’s Youtube Channel.
Author Bio: Ashley Higgs is a fourth year student at the University of Virginia majoring in Economics and minoring in Anthropology. She is from Richmond, Virginia, and will begin her career in Tysons, Virginia after graduation. She has been involved in Best Buddies at UVA throughout college, and also enjoys spending time outside, running, and cooking.