Aimee was a member of the Jefferson County YouthBoard in 2018-2019 and is currently serving as a summer intern. When asked about the power and importance of youth voice, she got real about the value today’s youth bring to the table. Here’s what she had to say:
Why is youth voice important?
The stories, experiences, and narratives of youth are imperative agents of change in a world where change is desperately needed. Youth voice brings a unique, fresh, inspired take on issues that exist in the world. Young people are future leaders and change-makers; thus, by cultivating their leadership and giving them opportunities to share their voice with the community, we are investing in a future that is better, brighter, and led by the youth of today. Giving young people a voice, an ability to share their ideas, empowers them. Young people are dedicated to creating change. Our youth today represent the most diverse, progressive, and accepting generation that has ever existed–and the value of that cannot be understated. An investment in youth voice today is a promise of a better future tomorrow.
What are the unique skills, ideas, experiences, etc. young people bring to the table?
Today’s youth are incredibly special and bring immeasurable value to the tables where decisions are being made. Because we’ve grown up in a time where radical changes to demographics, policies, and leadership are occurring, our generation is more accepting, tolerant, and diverse than any generation before us. Young people today share a common understanding that the systems we’ve traditionally accepted are not functioning any longer for the vast majority of people. We are hungry for change, whether we’re fighting for the end of mass incarceration or to save our planet from climate change. We grew up surrounded by technology and with access to a vast amount of information, and because of that, we are tech-savvy and quick to point out hypocrisy and injustice. We grew up during the era of globalization, and because of that, we cherish diversity and see value in bringing together different groups of people. We use social media to plan revolutions. We are discontent with the status quo. And for all these reasons, our unique skills, ideas, and experiences make us a force to be reckoned with.
What frustrates you about being a young person in today’s world?
What is most frustrating for me as a young person are the limitations arbitrarily imposed on me because of my age that restrict me from making impactful change. Simply because of your age, adults oftentimes scoff with indignation at your ideas and dedication to changing the world. The value you bring to the table is often underestimated simply because of a number that seemingly defines you. Just because I’m a teenager doesn’t mean that stereotypes enforced by the media are true to me. If I was taken more seriously and given greater access to resources that allow me to enact meaningful change, then I could truly change the world.
Should youth be involved in philanthropy and deciding how money impacts their community?
As the individuals who are most invested in the future that philanthropic funds are shaping, youth should absolutely have a say in how funds impact their communities. We are the spirit of our communities and we profoundly understand the consequences of adults’ decisions because they impact our lives directly. When decisions about funding are made, they often disproportionately affect youth who depend on community resources and programs to not only survive, but thrive. No one deserves a voice more than the backbone, spirit, and future of our communities: our youth.
If youth were taken more seriously, how could the world be a better place?
If youth were taken seriously, our ideas, values, and ideals could truly change the world for the better. Older generations are currently leaving a chaotic, disastrous, damaged world for us. If our voices were taken seriously, we could harness the passion, skills, and ideas we have to better the planet for all people.