November 8, 2016. I was 17 years old. Like all other Americans, I had thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears regarding the election.
But because I was 17, there was no institutional way for me to channel those feelings into action. Our voting and political systems believed my opinions and thoughts to be unworthy of impacting the electoral results: I was nine months shy of the age where my opinions would become validated and I felt defeated.
Throughout the election, I volunteered on campaigns, ran voter registration drives, canvassed from house to house talking to voters and helped organize debates between candidates running in my district to compensate for the fact that I could not vote on election day.
I Wasn’t Alone
It never felt like enough.
This experience is not unique to just me. Students across the U.S. feel voiceless, isolated and helpless as it is ingrained in us that our opinions don’t hold enough merit to impact politics or policy until we reach the arbitrary age of 18. Even our education system ignores its most important stakeholder: the students. Despite the unique perspective that stems from spending 35 hours a week in the classroom and witnessing things our teachers and administrators do not, decisions are made about us, but without us.
Like us all, I had to find a way to channel my post-election feelings into action. Since 2016, I found a space where my voice has influence and purpose as a leader at Student Voice—a national, student-led nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering students to create change in their own communities.
This weekend, Student Voice celebrates International Students’ Day, a day where students across the globe come together to recognize the power of their collective voices. As we celebrate International Students’ Day and its commitment to giving students around the world a platform, I remember how it felt to feel helpless, without a path to action, in the most overwhelming of political climates.
Back in 2016, I desperately needed a space where my voice mattered and where I could connect with others who experienced this same mystique, yet would not let their age prevent them from leading, innovating and advocating. This is why I am excited to share the launch of a new online space for young change-makers: Youth United for Action (YU4A).
Who We Are
YU4A is a Facebook group comprised of students, young people and youth activists that are interested in creating solutions to the problems and challenges persisting in their communities. From free speech in schools to school safety to LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion, YU4A is a place for students to come together because we believe that a connected community, regardless of our identities, interests and perspectives, will advance our individual and collective impact.
Our hope is for this to be a space for students to connect with other students, share resources, and learn from and support each other. By joining YU4A, young people will discover countless opportunities for involvement in organizations, social movements and campaigns focused on solving the problems that they are most passionate about. YU4A is the place for students to become involved in activism, connect with fellow change-makers and create a sense of community to support each other as we work to improve our communities.
I am calling all young people to join us as we work to unite student leaders and activists across the country through YU4A. In just the past year, we’ve seen students rise up, walk out, march, write and demand that their voices be heard, but we’re not done yet. Your voice matters: join the Youth United For Action community today.