Youth Advocacy for Change

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Social change
Learning about issues and using our voice is a right and a civic responsibility and vital to a healthy democracy. Teaching youth at the earliest ages about using their voice prepares them to be civically engaged now and later. It teaches them to learn more about issues and see each person as a valued member of society with an equal vote and an important voice.

What Is Advocacy?

Definition: (n) the act or process of writing or speaking in favor of, or supporting, a cause

Advocacy as Speech and Protest

This video is an example of a youth using speech and leading protests to change gun laws after the Parkland, Florida school shooting. In the words of Emma Gonzalez, "We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks."

Advocacy as Social Action in History

Young people are strong advocates and have been for many years, filled with passion and the eagerness to learn and make a difference. This 4-minute video and discussion guide examine the social activism of our past as an example for today.

Explore this History of U.S. Philanthropy Timeline to see the power of advocacy in history.

Being an Advocate

Even though youth are not of voting age, they still have the power to learn about reliable facts, influence others, and share their valued voice! This voting guide provides tips and links.

Listen to experts and the news. Conduct research on issues you care about through reliable news sources and articles. These Media Literacy Tips will help you sift through a mountain of information sources—many of which are not entirely reliable. In addition, local nonprofits may have expert staff willing to talk to youth about issues and their work to address them.  

Decide the exact change you want to see and communicate it simply and powerfully through social media. Create a video or meme that is honest and powerful. Pair it with a simple call to action youth can take. Use art, humor, style, and heart to influence others. 

People Listen to Youth

Youth engagement leads to civic engagement in adulthood. There is no limit when it comes to the possible results of youth advocacy. Here Greta Thunberg speaks to world leaders:

Ten Ideas for Advocacy Service Projects

  1. Use social media to communicate with your peers about what matters most.
  2. Write and perform Spoken Word Poetry for Justice 
  3. Create a Public Service Announcement in order to inform people about an issue and challenge them to take action in order to make a difference. 
  4. Make an ABC book about Advocacy and teach young people about issues, rights, and responsibilities.
  5. Make an advocacy poster with a strong and simple message they want others to hear.
  6. Take nonviolent action to demand change using an idea from the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.
  7. Create a civil rights or LGBTQ alliance student group at school.  
  8. Read aloud to younger children picture books about Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, and other leaders of justice. 
  9. Create a survey for the school or community to identify their awareness and opinions of the most pressing civil rights issues. 
  10. Advocate for fairness and justice by writing a letter, calling or emailing a public official, hosting a forum, or speaking at a public meeting.

Advocacy as Philanthropy

Philanthropy is defined as using time, talent, treasure, ties, and testimony for the common good. This video describes different ways to take action.

Books and Discussion Guides

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson - A guide to accompany the reading of this nonfiction account of one attorney's journey to acquit innocent Black men on death row.

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Say Something by Peter Reynolds - A guide to accompany the reading of this book for all ages. Discussion questions and activities spark youth voice and small actions to respond to issues they care about.

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Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen - A guide to accompany the reading of this picture book and build an understanding of working together for positive change.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - The guide below provides discussion questions about the issues raised in the book about social justice.

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