Every young person has what it takes to make a difference. Discover how teens can harness their skills and beliefs to make a positive change by becoming a youth activist.
Activism isn’t just about what you’re for or against. It’s about discovering what you’re passionate about, your opinions on issues and learning more about policies and perspectives you weren’t aware of before. But most importantly, it’s about having these conversations with others, even when it’s difficult.
Young people know this and that’s why youth activism is important — they're ready and willing to make positive change happen in their communities, country and the world.
Teenagers are excellent advocates — they’re passionate, idealistic and not afraid to stand up for what they think is right. They’ve been the beating heart behind many social movements — from marching for Civil Rights in the 1960s to generating awareness and support for the #MeToo movement. While youth activists still utilize traditional tactics like peaceful protesting, they’re also adept at harnessing modern tools like social media to express opinions and mobilize communities.
In fact, in a recent survey of teens, Boys & Girls Clubs of America found that most teens get their information about social issues from social media and friends. They also ranked racial justice, women’s rights and LGBTQ+ issues as their top social issues with gun control, climate change and police and criminal justice following closely behind.
Through adult mentors and community outreach, youth at Boys & Girls Clubs learn how to represent their own views and interests and get involved in issues that will shape the rest of their lives. They also learn valuable leadership skills like goal setting, teamwork and conflict resolution to help overcome any obstacle that comes their way.
The benefits of teen activism are real, and with the right skills and opportunities, teens can be motivated to stand up to issues affecting themselves, their loved ones and their communities. And their impact shows! Around the world, youth activists have been responsible for public policy changes, civic engagement and positive strides in mental health.
That’s why when young people come together to champion a cause they believe in, it’s not a question or “if” they’ll make a difference; it’s a question of “when.”
If you're a young person interested in social justice, or know one that you want to support, here are a few tips for getting started as an advocate no matter your experience level:
Looking for ways to get your cause seen and supported? Check out these youth activism examples put into action by Boys & Girls Club teens.
Forming a teen advocacy group or club can allow you to cover more ground by creating events and speaking opportunities and working as a team to achieve your goals.
To combat mental health stigmas, teens at Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida created the Mental Health Myth Busters advocacy group. Together, they visit Boys & Girls Clubs, schools and community events to host mental health awareness seminars, suicide prevention workshops and train their peers to become Teen Mental Health First Aiders. They even worked with their local government to get a proclamation for May 11 to become Teen Mental Health Awareness Day in central Florida!
From the school district to local government, many officials are looking to hear from today’s teens and partner with them on initiatives that better the community.
In response to George Floyd’s murder, teens from Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston partnered with their local school district to develop an anti-violence campaign, giving them a safe space to express how violence impacts their schools and communities using digital media, art and creative writing. They also led an anti-gun violence event and workshops to discuss gun violence and racial justice with key decision-makers in their region, even engaging feedback and support from First Daughter Ashley Biden.
Sometimes seeing is believing, which makes art a valuable tool for helping communities literally see (and better understand) the issue you’re solving for.
As part of an ocean advocacy summer program, Florida teens at Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County not only collected over 1,500 pounds of trash from local beaches but transformed the trash into six ocean-themed art pieces now on display throughout the county.
One of the best ways to draw attention to an issue and generate support is to bring people together for an engaging community event.
After their Boys & Girls Club’s rainbow flag was stolen, teens partnered with their school district, city and police department to lead the very first Pride March in Monterey Park, California. The now-annual march begins at the local high school, passes City Hall and ends at the community park across from Boys & Girls Clubs of West San Gabriel Valley & Eastside, finishing with a festival of live music, food and celebration. Nearly 500 young people and adults have attended in years past, joining together to show their support for inclusive environments and LGBTQ+ youth and community members.
While activism often appears as in-person rallies and marches, tapping into digital media — including social media and podcasts — is another avenue to make teen activists’ voices heard.
To give their peers a space to discuss issues that matter to them, teens from Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities in Minnesota developed the “Our West Side Story” podcast, with young people sharing their opinions and experiences on topics like work-life balance, mental health and important safety policies. The podcast won a $5,000 grand prize in a Boys & Girls Clubs of America “Shark Tank”-style competition for youth advocacy projects, and their inaugural episode featured an interview with U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum.
Boys & Girls Clubs help millions of young people each year develop the skills to stand up for what they think is right and elevate their voices. Learn how to get involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of America.