I really enjoyed the article “In a World Where Youth Hold Power” by Adeola A. Oredola with members of Youth in Action. I learned a lot about Youth in Action, described as an “organization that’s all about young people – their capacity to lead, their natural ability to innovate, and their desire for positive change” (47). I thought that the article did a great job describing the philosophy of the organization and providing an honest look at the organization by providing thoughts from different people involved.
While reading the article, I kept thinking back to my own high school experience. One sentence that really resonated with me was “Teachers and administrators tend to demand respect but feel like treating students with the same respect is pointless. It’s hard to get to acceptance and encouragement when respect isn’t even there” (50). In eighth grade, I helped start a club called BeSmart at our high school. As a freshman, I was elected as the secretary. I was the president of the club my sophomore, junior, and senior years. During my sophomore year, there was a conference that we wanted to attend as a club for leadership development. I filled out all of the appropriate paperwork and brought it to the office where it was supposed to go for approval. I never heard back from anyone. I went to the principal’s office to ask him about it, and he still would not give me an answer. I got to school early every day for a week and waited in his office for him. Finally, when he realized I was not going to give up, he approved the trip. I felt as though he was just waiting and hoping that I would forget about it. I was disappointed in this response because I felt as though our principal should have been more supportive and encouraging of a group of young people trying to develop their leadership skills.
I also thought back to my high school career when I read that “The space cultivated by the youth leadership development organization Youth In Action puts young people, traditionally marginalized by adult decision-makers, at the center of change in the community” (47). There was very little room for student involvement at a level higher than Student Council or Government (which still didn’t have much of an impact on the school). During my junior year, I heard through our advisor that there was a group of faculty (the principal, vice principal, nurse, guidance counselor, health teacher, etc.) who met on a monthly basis to discuss health-related matters in the school and district. There was supposed to be a student representative on the committee; however, when the last student graduated, they made no effort to find another student to fill the spot. After many meetings and emails with the vice principal, I was allowed to attend the meetings. Little effort was made, however, to actually make sure I was a part of it. Instead of receiving emails about meetings and time changes, I had to check in often to make sure I was in attendance. Luckily, the vice principal seemed happy to have me there once the meetings actually took place, and I felt that my voice had some impact on the direction of the meetings and the policies discussed at the meetings. My high school definitely could have taken some pointers from YIA because there was definitely more room for student involvement.
Check out the Youth In Action website...lots more information about what they do!