Pass the Mic Series: Programs that Elevate Youth Voice & Agency

By: Liz, a 16-year old


  • 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, sharing videos, and uplifting youth voices to summarize and reflect on what was discussed.
  • Liz, a 16 year old, shares more about her experiences attending the conference, discussing youth programs as a panelist, and participating in a youth program that elevates her voice and agency.
Source: Youth-Nex

I attended the entire Youth-Nex conference and loved being a panelist for the session on “Programs that Elevate Youth Voice & Agency.” This experience was very new and important to me. It was like an I made it moment.

Being at the conference as a youth was very eye-opening for me. I have never been in a room with that many adults that actually want to listen to what I have to say and take away from it.

Panel on Programs that Elevate Youth

I feel like youth need programs to stay involved in the world and not stray away from society.

What is most important to me from this panel is that youth get to feel comfortable in a space that they have created and is meant for them. We get the most joy and connections from leading our community.

Young people should be uplifted by those around them, especially our mentors because they are considered the “knowers.” Mentors and other adults should affirm youth and help us to feel like we are actually heard.

Some advice for adults who want more youth in their programs is to bring the community into the program. It may help youth to feel more comfortable since they might be surrounded by those with the same values and experiences as them.

My Experiences in a Youth Program

I loved being on this panel with everyone but I especially loved sharing this moment with my mentor, James. He’s been there since my first day at Mikva Challenge and has helped me through so much. Even on the worst days, he always made sure to include me in all discussions and have my voice heard.

James is such a fun person to be around and so caring. If something was going on with my school he would reach out and ask if I was doing alright, or he would randomly just text me to check in and see how I’m doing.

He is my #1 mentor and someone that I look up to alot. Even though he might not know or feel like it, he has made such a huge impact on everyone in Mikva. I thank him for everything he has done for me and my family.

Did you miss one of our six sessions from the Pass the Mic: Amplifying Youth Voice & Agency conference? Go back and watch these panels with youth voices, and read the summaries, primarily written by the youth participants, on the following topics:

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: My name is Lizette, or Liz for short. I’m 16, from Chicago, Illinois and going into my junior year at Chicago Bulls College Prep. I’ve been a part of Mikva Challenge for three years and have participated in meetings with the Aldermen and Mayors about what youth today need and how we can take that action. I love taking action, especially with Mikva Challenge because we get to meet so many people we wouldn’t have met if not in the program. I traveled to Washington DC for Mikva’s National Youth Summit and got to meet and speak with representative Chuy Garcia and his team about various issues my peers and I care about. I’ve also participated in candidate roundtable events and campaigned with Alderman Sofia King for the mayoral election. The issues I mainly focus on are the education system and abortion rights. I’ve attended multiple events in my community because of Mikva Challenge and hope to be in the program for many more years. I am planning on going to UVA for college as being there for the conference made me love the campus and overall environment. People who really inspire me are my parents because they both work hard to get me and my sisters on the right path and make sure that we always know they are there for us whenever we need it and they won’t judge and just want what’s best for us. Another person who really inspires me is my program director in Mikva, James. He’s my role model and who I want to grow to be like him in the future.

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