Elevating Youth Voice!

March 25th to March 29th marks Youth Voice Week 2024! Creating spaces where young people can share their experiences and discuss issues that are important to them is crucial. Afterschool programs are uniquely positioned to provide these spaces for youth. Amplifying youth voice initiatives helps youth develop essential skills and instills the confidence necessary to express their thoughts and take action to address concerns or situations in their everyday lives. Amplifying young people’s voices not only empowers them but also helps them see that their contributions and ideas are valued by those around them. 

ACT Now recently started an initiative to amplify youth voices within our Coalition through our Youth Afterschool Ambassadors(YAA) program. This program was designed to engage youth in discussion-based sessions to highlight their afterschool experiences and support them in sharing their stories with elected officials and community members. ACT Now’s Youth Afterschool Ambassadors program is comprised of five high school students participating in afterschool programs across Illinois. YAA participants convene monthly to build upon their advocacy and leadership skills with the goal of having them participate in ACT Now’s Advocacy Day on April 17th, where they will engage in discussions with elected officials concerning the significance of afterschool programs.

While Youth Voice Week 2024 will conclude at the end of March, all afterschool programs can incorporate youth voices into their frameworks, and elevate youth experiences year-round. It’s important to be deliberate and mindful in supporting youth throughout the process. The Afterschool Alliance has developed a toolkit to assist programs and organizations at the beginning of their journey toward youth involvement. This toolkit contains information on the spectrum of youth engagement efforts along with recommendations to guide programs. 

Here are three ways programs can celebrate Youth Voice Week and build long-term youth voice into your programming:

  1. Encourage youth in your afterschool program to compose letters to their elected representatives discussing the importance of afterschool activities and detailing how they have been personally impacted by them.
  2. Engage on social media platforms. ACT Now has devised social media templates for program providers to utilize during Youth Voice Week! Click here to access the templates!
  3. Participate in the Afterschool Alliance’s Youth Voice Week Town Hall on March 28th, 2024, at 1:00 p.m. CST. This webinar aims to highlight the necessity of involving young people with disabilities in afterschool and summer learning programs. Register here!

ACT Now is grateful to all program providers for fostering environments where youth feel secure and empowered to express themselves freely! We eagerly anticipate seeing how our partners embrace Youth Voice Week!