A project of the Afterschool Alliance
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Youth Voice and Leadership

The youth in your program know first-hand why afterschool is important and what it provides them. They can be some of your best, and most authentic, messengers. Be sure to involve youth in your event program as well as in the planning.

Lights On is a great opportunity to let youth express their views on afterschool.

  • During your Lights On program, give young people a time to speak publicly to policymakers about their views on afterschool, learning, education and other related issues. Invite your mayor, school board members or city council members to come to your afterschool program to listen to what kids have to say.
  • Have youth decorate light bulbs. If you are near a congressional district office, arrange for them to deliver the artwork themselves and meet with the Member or staff. If the offices are far away, work with students to make a project out of sending the box of artwork. The congressional office should respond with a letter back to your program. Use that as a second learning opportunity to discuss the role of elected officials.
  • Work with the local newspaper to have them publish op-eds by kids that focus on kids views of afterschool and learning, how/when/where they have fun learning.
  • Work with the local newspaper to feature stories by kid reporters that cover issues including why afterschool programs help kids, what makes a great afterschool program, how to make learning fun.
  • Organize an event at city hall, or the state house in which young people speak publicly about their views on the issues in front of a large audience that includes policymakers -- give the policymakers a chance to respond/acknowledge the young people's concerns.
  • Organize a group of kids to go visit policymakers in your community. This could include the mayor, city council members, school board members, state legislators, the governor, and members of Congress. Work with the young people ahead of time to set up the meetings and develop a list of talking points for the meetings. Notify the press ahead of time so that they can cover the story of young people being their own best advocates on learning and education.
  • Work with young people to request a hearing on afterschool and education in your state legislative body. Ask the education committee to hold a special hearing where kids testify about the benefits they receive from afterschool programs, and how afterschool helps engage them in learning.


The Institute for Citizens & Scholars (C&S) recognizes the unique opportunity to leverage the out-of-school time space to help young people cultivate civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions, and interact with people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs in their communities. Intergenerational co-design and co-leadership is an extraordinarily powerful approach to this work.

This past summer, C&S partnered with Civic Spring Project youth grantees from the Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT) to produce a set of tools that can be used by youth and adults in the out-of-school-time field. During this year’s Lights on Afterschool event, use the following assessment, How Intergenerational is your Organization? Quiz and Conversation Guide from The Institute for Citizens & Scholars and The Kentucky Student Voice Team to host an engaging dialogue with your team. And stay tuned for more information about a Webinar with KSVT students hosted by AfterSchool Alliance in early December!

Youth Service

Turn your Lights On event into an opportunity for youth to make a difference in their communities. We’ve got some great ideas from Youth Service America.

Watch this short video and download the Pick Your Project Tipsheet to help your students choose a project that will be both fun and meaningful.

Search  for project ideas in these categories:

Issue-based guides and ideas are available in the following areas:

Check out YSA’s Everyday Young Heroes and Youth Guide to the Global Goals for even more project examples and ideas.

These free downloadable resources and video trainings will guide you as you take your project from idea to action through the project planning steps of investigation, preparation and planning, action, reflection, and demonstration/celebration.

Learn how to enhance the service-learning process through play, with Great Group Games for Service. This tipsheet has a game idea for each step of the IPARD/C service-learning process.

Find even more free resources in the YSA Knowledge Center, including these special collections:

  • Create-Your-Own Youth Service Institute: Take time to prepare yourself and other youth and adult leaders in your community to lead more effective service projects in the future. With nearly 70 videos to choose from, you can customize your own agenda and watch on your own schedule

Finally, see how you can be part of the 50by250 campaign to increase youth participation levels to 50% by America’s 250th birthday on July 4, 2026.