Anxious about their future on a hotter planet and angry at world leaders for failing to arrest the crisis, masses of young people poured into the streets on every continent yesterday (including here in Connecticut) for a day of global climate protests. Organizers estimated the turnout to be around four million in thousands of cities and towns worldwide. It was the first time that children and young people had demonstrated to demand climate action at one time in so many places and in such numbers around the world.
At Carver we call this positive action Youth Voice. Carver values the distinct ideas, opinions, attitudes, knowledge, and actions of young people regardless of the issues addressed by them. The March for Our Lives students believed that the worsening epidemic of gun violence in this country could actually be fixed. Only days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, they directly lobbied representatives in the Florida state capital of Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C. On March 14, 2018, to commemorate a month since the event and to advocate for stricter gun laws, they led more than a million students to walk out of schools across the country. On March 24th, hundreds of thousands of people rallied outside the Capitol for the March for Our Lives, the largest youth protest in Washington since the Vietnam War. Another walkout followed, on April 20th, the nineteenth anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado.
The term Youth Voice often groups together a diversity of perspectives and experiences, regardless of backgrounds, identities, and cultural differences. It is frequently associated with the successful application of a variety of youth development activities, including service learning and leadership training. Research has shown that engaging youth voice is an essential element of effective organizational development among community and youth-serving organizations such as Carver.
A broad international movement exists to promote Youth Voice, born from earlier youth service and youth rights movements. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was the first international mechanism to stipulate the systemic engagement of Youth Voice. Specific aims are stated in Articles 5 and 12 that clearly acknowledge that youth have a voice, that Youth Voice is constantly changing, and that all areas of our society are morally responsible for engaging Youth Voice. Annual events which center on Youth Voice include Global Youth Service Day and the National Service Learning Conference.
Carver encourages Youth Voice and has held Youth Voice Forums in which Carver youth organize panels of community leaders with whom they have public discussions about issues of concern. Youth Voice doesn’t mean talking loudly or shouting to be heard, and it is not about drowning out other people’s voices, including adults. Youth voice is about considering the perspectives and ideas of young people, respecting what everyone has to say, taking risks, listening, sharing, and working together. This is what Carver values.