Empowering Youth: Driving Social Justice Reform and Creating Safe Spaces
Empowering Youth Exploring Justice in Cleveland
EYEJ drives social justice reform through empowering young advocates for change, with the help of 900+ diverse adult members, donors, and allies. Their Discussion Series brings conversations on topics like healthy eating, civil rights and stress into schools and communities. Their Impact 25 Youth Council helps youth bring their voice to Cleveland leaders.
Some obstacles can stand in the way of young people achieving their goals for themselves and their communities. These challenges can include a lack of access to resources, negative societal attitudes, and personal doubts.
Providing them with the tools to overcome these obstacles can help them develop a strong sense of self-worth, leading to better decision-making and confidence in their abilities. This in turn translates into higher levels of civic engagement, which is key to driving positive societal change.
The best way to empower youth is to create safe spaces that encourage open dialogue and promote peer collaboration. This can be done through community programs and initiatives that offer a variety of skill-building opportunities, mentorship, and projects that address specific community issues. It’s also crucial to support initiatives that allow youth to take charge of their own projects, fostering leadership skills and the ability to tackle difficult problems. This will encourage them to take the lead when confronting challenges and to strive for success in all endeavors, including their personal lives.
Whether on an individual or community level, youth empowerment involves encouraging and supporting young individuals to take action on issues that matter to them. It also includes creating safe spaces where young people can express themselves freely and build a sense of self-worth.
Cultivating leadership skills among youth is another important element of youth empowerment. This includes teaching them to analyze situations from different perspectives, make informed decisions based on evidence rather than assumptions, and create plans for addressing challenges they face.
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s EYEJ Discussion Series brings conversations on topics like healthy eating, civil rights and stress to schools across the city. It also provides young people with the chance to present their recommendations on how to solve injustices in their communities to community leaders, law enforcement and policymakers. Its Impact 25 Youth Council, for example, brings together 19 youth from diverse backgrounds to discuss issues in their communities, identify solutions and collaborate on research, teamwork, public speaking and leadership.
Inspiring youth to become leaders within their communities is a crucial part of empowerment. This process teaches them that they can create change. Empowered youths initiate progress and inspire others, creating a ripple effect that eventually transforms entire communities and societies.
This is why many of the core aspects of youth empowerment are focused on education, providing access to resources and creating safe spaces. It also requires fostering an environment that fosters self-reliance, not defiance.
One way to do this is by bringing in speakers from all walks of life to discuss real topics that affect them, like racial justice and social inequality. One such organization, EYEJ, reaches over 1,000 children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and four city recreation centers with their Discussion Series program. Volunteers can help by becoming a Discussion Series speaker or coordinating the program. Both roles are crucial to empowering youth.
When youth are empowered to identify their own community needs, they can also find ways to respond to those needs. For example, the YODJ: Youth Online Discussing Justice organization in Cleveland connects pre-teens and teens to discussion partners that allow them to participate in interactive conversations about issues they face every day like education, health, money and race.
Youth are a vital resource for their communities. They have a wealth of skills and experience they can offer, as well as a strong desire to bring change and make an impact. This is why many organizations encourage and engage youth as volunteers.
Capacity development should be at the heart of any youth volunteerism initiative, and governments, volunteer involving organizations (VIOs), civil society and other local stakeholders need to collaborate to promote youth volunteering. This can include ensuring that laws and policies are enabling, and training is provided to volunteers to support their capacity to contribute to positive transformational changes in communities.