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.