A Finish Line in Sight for Youth Voice in Federal Policy?

August 6, 2012

Has the time come for genuine youth voice in federal policymaking?

When I first graduated from college and came to DC to work on youth issues, I came across the following quote from Jason Warren, a 17-year-old participant in Youth Force, a coalition of high school students in the South Bronx in New York City:

I cut it out and put it in my wallet.

In the years since, I have been privileged to spend time in both local arenas and, yes, at the White House. Sadly, Jason was right: by and large, adults do sit around and decide what “the problems” are for youth and what they need without ever consulting young people themselves. So I find myself frequently taking that quote out of my wallet and reading it to the people assembled.

But sometimes I don’t need to. Sometimes young people are at the table and I get to see better policies being made because of the unique perspectives and insights of the young people.

For several years now, a group of young people have been mounting a campaign to create a Presidential Youth Council -- which would bring young people with diverse backgrounds and experiences together to advise the president and cabinet secretaries as they make policy decisions affecting youth.

If they are successful, I may be able to retire Jason’s dog-eared quotation.

Building on Success

Can young people really have a meaningful voice in government? And will that lead to better policies? The experiences of a number of cities and states with youth councils indicate the answer is yes, when the councils are well-designed and supported.

Take New Mexico. Back in 2005, then-Governor Bill Richardson was faced with a tough decision: children’s advocates were pushing strongly for additional school-based health centers. But budget hawks -- pointing to existing community-based health clinics in the same regions as the schools -- told him this would be a wasteful, redundant expenditure.YOUTH ALLIANCE

He needed better insight to make his decision. So, he turned to the New Mexico Youth Alliance, a group of around 100 young people ages 14 to 24 who advised the governor on youth issues (the Alliance was created when the governor signed the state Youth Council Act into law two years earlier).

The young people explained that in their small communities, they couldn’t go anywhere near the community-based health clinics without fear of rumors quickly spreading that they were pregnant or had an STD. They and their peers avoided the clinics even if their medical needs had nothing to do with reproductive health. As a result, they missed out on sorely needed services.

The governor now had the information he needed to make his decision: he increased the number of school-based health centers from 38 to 64, making at least one available in every county in the state.

Pretty great, huh?

The governor of New Mexico was not alone in having access to young people who provide vital insights and perspectives into difficult policy decisions.  At least 12 states and hundreds of localities have Youth Councils -- officially sanctioned convenings of young people (often high school-aged, but sometimes including younger and older youth as well) who advise high-level policymakers. Check out, for example, Washington State’s Legislative Youth Advisory Council.

Still, such youth councils remain the exception rather than the rule in policymaking.

To date, there has never been a federal-level Youth Council, although several agencies and departments have mechanisms for young people to offer input on programs and services.

A Coordinated Push for a Federal Voice

Alex Wirth, 19, is one of the driving forces behind the movement to create a Presidential Youth Council. I first met Alex when he was in high school and serving as the chair of the Santa Fe Youth Council. To say that he is one of the most effective young people at advancing federal policy change misses the point. He is one of the most effective people ofany age at driving policy change; it just happens that he’s young.  

Young activists including Joe Hill and Jamira Burley from the Philadelphia Youth Commission, Thomas Senecal from the Maryland Youth Advisory Council, and DeRell Bonner from Mikva Challenge have also played important roles in getting this ball moving. Witness the 2010 youth-led visit to DC to meet with the White House and Congress (there’s even a video).  

So where are we now? 
Years after we began the call for a federal youth council, we’re close, but not yet over the finish line.

There have been victories, times when we succeeded in having youth heard in federal deliberations. For example, the 2011 National Youth Summit brought together 300 young people from across the country to meet with high-ranking White House staff, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan. (And we were pleased that Sec.Duncan answered the top-voted questions submitted by young people in SparkAction's “Ask Arne Duncan” competition.)

Most recently, SparkAction and our partners worked with Jon Bon Jovi and the White House Council on Community Solutions to launch the SparkOpportunity Challenge to find and support young people with the best ideas to serve disadvantaged youth in their communities. The Youth Leadership Institute’s Youth Ambassadors led the way.

Speaking of the White House Council on Community Solutions, its members—big names in business, philanthropy and entertainment—have called on the Obama administration to create a formal body (essentially a Presidential Youth Council, although they gave it a different name) “composed of young people that reflects a diversity of backgrounds and experience, including opportunity youth, to advise the President and his cabinet secretaries on the perspectives of young people, offer input on how to make federally funded youth programs more effective, and support activities by each department to better engage young people in the policymaking process.”

Several related efforts are also underway:

  • The Youth Leadership Institute is sustaining and growing its Youth Ambassadors program.
  • Dorothy Stoneman, the founder of YouthBuild USA, is leading efforts to respond to the White House Council on Community Solutions’ call for “Leading Organizations in the Nonprofit and Faith-based Sectors to Create a National Youth Council.” 
  • Youth organizer Jitu Brown from the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization is bringing together activists such as those in the Alliance for Educational Justice  to call for a Grassroots Youth Caucus.

Hopefully, all of these efforts will succeed. If we want to authentically bring youth voice into federal policymaking, our best bet is to use not one but all of these approaches; working together both from within and outside of government, these councils could have major influence.

Which of these ideas will make it over the finish line? With the momentum growing, the chances are better than ever that all could succeed. Stay tuned – we will be covering these campaigns every step of the way.












Thaddeus Ferber is Vice President for Policy with the Forum for Youth Investment and co-founder of SparkAction. Reach him at thaddeus[@]forumfyi.org



Thaddeus Ferber





It&;s an interesting idea to have a federal youth council. I think it would definitely be a valuable addition to our discourse and the example you give from New Mexico proves that this perspective can be very helpful rather than making policy decisions without clear information.

Not that this can&;t get worked out, but I wonder if it could eventually be used for something I would coin as "Youth-washing," or basically kind of using the Council politically like the "non-partisan" CBO (Congressional Budget Office) as corrobation of one&;s political perspective. Of course, it&;s not entirely clear what the council would do. Would it have policy positions? Would it be available for comment each time something newsworthy happens that impacts youth? (Pretty much every day). Where would it be housed and how would its members be selected / elected? These are more curiosity questions than criticisms of the idea by the way. To reiterate, I think it&;s a great idea.

All good questions. Especially in the current partisan climate, people tend to view everything through an ideological lens. As one person put it: "Policymakers will create a Youth Council if they think it will support their partisan agenda, or if they think it won&;t have any impact on policy." Since we are hoping for a structure that is not partisan, and yet does impact policy, we are swimming against the tide. But the good news is that young people are swimming with us -- most young people who we talk to have the same vision for a youth council as something that shouldn&;t be partisan ideology, and yet will make a real difference in the world.

Alex and all the people who are working with him to advance the Presidential Youth Council are going above and beyond to make sure it is seen as non-partisan. They are exploring ways to ensure that the members are selected by members of Congress from both parties; making sure any legislation would have bi-partisan co-sponsors, etc.

Biaxin 500 Mg Amoxil 500 Mg [url=http://cheapciali.com]cialis[/url] Acquistare Sildenafil Francia Femara Online Orders Cheapest Prices Angela Women'S Ginseng

I am asics 70 lions jerseys ye-ars old an-d oakley sunglasses a dre beats born ugg a-gain polo ralph lauren Chris-tian, atlanta hawks jerseys I swarovski st-ill am mcm backpack emp-loyed and gafas oakley -blessed by- swarovski crystal God bottega veneta with jack wolfskin outlet online -good physi-cal longchamp health-. cheap basketball shoes I live the north face outlet a-lone michael kors outlet online sale with kate spade outlet -my nike.se four pandora charms ca-ts which a-re juicy couture my ipad mini cases fur-children a-s tory burch never coach usa ha-d human ki-ds tory burch handbags of michael kors my levis jeans o-wn. I michael kors v?skor atte-nd north face jackets the loc-al church oakley frogskins -here michael kors outlet online in th-e stone island mountain-s of converse shoes St.He-lena, Cali-fornia it -is michael jordan called -the "-Haven"-; it michael kors purses is tommy hilfiger online an- pandora jewellery australia Seven Day- belstaff mens jackets Adventist- Church giants jerseys he-re nfl jerseys on cheap oakley sunglasses the versace outlet -hospital c-ampus, alt-hough nike air max i cheap nba jerseys am- not ralph lauren a belstaff womens jackets adv-ents chargers jerseys it is- an parajumpers parkas open memphis grizzlies jersey d-oor church- and ralph lauren polo true nfl jerseys china -believers mbt womens shoes -as God ble-ssed michael kors outlet me mcm handbags an-d nike air huarache guided tommy hilfiger m-e jimmy choo here 4 y-ears under armour shoes ago portland trail blazers jersey a-s christian louboutin outlet he ecco shoes outlet guide-d me pandora bracelet to nike air force th-e kate spade handbags hospital- guciheaven outlet for nba jerseys emplo-yment cheap michael kors 11 y-ears ago a-nd cheap nfl jerseys the true religion jeans women hos-pital burberry online shop is a-lso red bottom Advent-ist nike store uk hospit-al coach factory online and oakley sunglasses 80%- Aventists- dansko shoes outlet working converse sneakers h-ere, pandora and s-uch dolphins jerseys a nike factory mira-cle burberry to be -able philipp plein to pr-ay asics outlet openly givenchy shoes outlet -and share michael kors -our reebok faith designer handbags -and washington wizards jersey tell o-thers of burberry outlet store J-esus and jordan retro G-od tommy hilfiger outlet whether- nike free 5.0 co-worker-s or patie-nts seahawks jerseys or fam-ilies/frie-nds hilfiger online shop of mavericks jerseys pat-ients. roshe run I barbour jackets s-truggle wi-th michael kors handbags depress-ion lacoste shirts but 49ers jerseys ha-ve veneta an oakley sunglasses cheap exce-llent nike huarache doct-or longchamp handbags right lunette ray ban h-ere oakley sunglasses at nike roshe run the- armani outlet online hospital montblanc -and sunglasses for women my mas-ter northface physic-ian red bottom God is- always north face canada at- nike air max my side.I am adidas 70 philipp plein clothing ye-ars old an-d giuseppe zanotti a ray ban wayfarer born a-gain ravens jerseys Chris-tian, I nike free run st-ill nike.dk am redskins jerseys emp-loyed and -blessed by- ferragamo God nike running shoes with converse outlet -good packers jerseys physi-cal cheap ray ban health-. I live a-lone michael kors outlet online with true religion -my adidas superstar four ca-ts true religion outlet which g by guess a-re rams jerseys my ferragamo shoes fur-children chiefs jerseys a-s michael kors uk never broncos jerseys ha-d human oakley ki-ds soccer shoes outlet of my thomas sabo jewellery o-wn. I atte-nd michael kors the loc-al church nike shoes -here polo ralph in converse chucks th-e moncler women jackets mountain-s of St.He-lena, Cali-fornia it -is air max 2014 called -the "-Haven"-; michael kors it is barbour jacket outlet an- minnesota timberwolves jersey Seven www.tommyhilfiger.nl Day- Adventist- Church he-re on the azcardinals jerseys -hospital reebok outlet c-ampus, alt-hough i fitflop shoes am- not ferragamo a adv-ents timberland outlet it cheap shoes is- nike mercurial vapor an polo outlet online open d-oor church- skechers outlet and adidas online shop true -believers uhren shop -as God coach usa ble-ssed adidas zx flux me nike roshe run an-d prada outlet guided indiana pacers jersey m-e oakley sunglasses here 4 y-ears marc by marc jacobs ago ralph lauren factory store a-s he guide-d michael kors handbags me to cheap oakley sunglasses th-e hospital- polo outlet store for easton bats emplo-yment cheap jerseys 11 giuseppe zanotti sneakers y-ears oakley sunglasses cheap ago adidas shoes a-nd the air max hos-pital is ralph lauren outlet online a-lso oakley sunglasses Advent-ist hospit-al airmax and fidget spinner 80%- new balance Aventists- working tods womens shoes h-ere, and michael kors handbags s-uch a mira-cle burberry sale to louboutin shoes be -able to michael kors outlet online sale pr-ay tory burch sandals openly colts jerseys -and barbour mens jackets share -our burberry outlet online faith -and tell o-thers of nba jerseys J-esus new balance outlet and prada shoes G-od ralph lauren outlet online whether- nike running shoes co-worker-s texans jerseys or cheap jerseys patie-nts or oakley fam-ilies/frie-nds nike free of adidas sneakers pat-ients. suns jersey I polo ralph lauren s-truggle levis outlet store wi-th depress-ion but ha-ve ray ban sunglasses an exce-llent warriors jerseys doct-or coach outlet store right hogan sito ufficiale h-ere prada outlet at polo ralph lauren outlet the- hospital burberry outlet -and my jimmy choo outlet mas-ter physic-ian saints jerseys God houston rockets is- always coach bags outlet at- ralph lauren my tommy hilfiger canada side.I am 70 ye-ars new balance shoes old an-d ray ban pas cher a nike running born a-gain nike roshe run Chris-tian, pandora canada I ray ban outlet st-ill guess bags am emp-loyed north face and coach outlet usa -blessed by- God moncler mens jackets with -good michael kors outlet online physi-cal ray ban outlet health-. coach bags outlet I ray-ban sunglasses live a-lone with barbour jackets -my four ny jersey ca-ts cavaliers jersey which fivefingers a-re ray ban wayfarer my nba jerseys fur-children a-s bcbg max never swarovski crystal ha-d ralph lauren online shop human rayban ki-ds roshes of my air jordan shoes o-wn. bcbg max azria I miami heat atte-nd the nike air max loc-al jordans for sale church -here in lac jersey th-e mountain-s mcm handbags of St.He-lena, hogan Cali-fornia it cheap jack wolfskin -is buccaneers jerseys called -the los angeles lakers "-Haven"-; it is ed hardy clothing an- Hermès Pas Cher Seven ugg australia Day- longchamp taschen Adventist- Church he-re bulls jerseys on the polo ralph lauren -hospital nike schoenen c-ampus, alt-hough ralph lauren outlet i hermes birkin bag am- cheap michael kors not milwaukee bucks jersey a adv-ents mizuno it polo ralph lauren outlet online is- coach outlet online an open vans outlet d-oor church- toronto raptors jersey and true salomon schuhe -believers -as red bottom shoes God ble-ssed me falcons jerseys an-d guided m-e babyliss flat iron here michael kors australia 4 y-ears barbour womens jackets ago new balance a-s he guide-d burberry outlet online me to th-e sacramento kings hospital- links of london charms for air max 2014 emplo-yment nike air max thea 11 y-ears purses and handbags ago kate spade bags a-nd tory burch the new orleans pelicans jersey hos-pital is a-lso north face backpacks Advent-ist pandora charms hospit-al and 80%- true religion jeans outlet Aventists- jordan shoes working michael kors bags h-ere, nike fu?ballschuhe and hilfiger outlet s-uch rolex replica a jaguars jerseys mira-cle ugg australia to vans shoes be adidas.se -able to pr-ay coach factory outlet online openly under armour outlet -and soccer shoes share bengals jerseys -our faith jordan shoes -and rayban tell mcm bags o-thers hugo boss outlet online of timberland J-esus vikings jerseys and uggs canada G-od whether- nike roshe run co-worker-s or dsquared2 patie-nts air max 90 or nike air max fam-ilies/frie-nds of adidas superstar pat-ients. eagles jerseys I hermes outlet s-truggle wi-th depress-ion cheap jerseys but ha-ve an exce-llent doct-or jets jerseys right h-ere at versace the- nfl jerseys hospital hornets jersey -and timberland boots my mas-ter calvin klein outlet physic-ian woolrich womens jackets God chrome hearts rings is- nfl jerseys always at- retro jordans my supra footwear side.I bears jerseys am 70 ye-ars old an-d michael kors bags a born a-gain belstaff jackets outlet Chris-tian, ray ban occhiali I michael kors uhren st-ill cheap jerseys am cowboys jerseys emp-loyed dre headphones and mont blanc pens -blessed skechers canada by- prada handbags God with mizuno running shoes -good nike huarache physi-cal burberry health-. I live true religion jeans men a-lone nike tn with -my oakley sunglasses outlet four ca-ts coach outlet which a-re my fur-children a-s orlando magic jersey never ha-d the north face human ugg boots ki-ds of steelers jerseys my rayban o-wn. burberry I asics gel atte-nd the eyeglasses stores loc-al church fred perry outlet -here mcm handbags in th-e nike.com mountain-s nj jerseys of St.He-lena, Cali-fornia michael kors handbags it coach factory outlet online -is called thomas sabo -the polo ralph lauren "-Haven"-; coach outlet online it fendi is prada an- michael kors outlet Seven nike air max Day- Adventist- hermes belt Church ralph lauren polo he-re ray ban zonnebril on christian louboutin the -hospital c-ampus, panthers jerseys alt-hough beats by dre headphones i browns jerseys am- utah jazz jersey not a patriots jerseys adv-ents adidas yeezy shoes it is- an oakley sunglasses open d-oor ugg australia church- fred perry polos and dsquared2 outlet true -believers -as puma online shop God salvatore ferragamo ble-ssed the north face me an-d bills jerseys guided detroit pistons m-e valentino outlet here hogan mens shoes 4 ray ban uk y-ears air jordan retro ago a-s 76ers jerseys he nike store guide-d me to nike shoes th-e burberry outlet store hospital- for timberland outlet emplo-yment coach outlet sale 11 y-ears uggs outlet ago polo ralph lauren a-nd the hos-pital air max thea is true religion outlet a-lso coach bags outlet Advent-ist iphone 4s cases hospit-al cheap jerseys and okc jerseys 80%- louboutin Aventists- working h-ere, and coach black friday s-uch longchamp a air max mira-cle supra shoes to swarovski jewelry be -able celtics jersey to chi flat iron pr-ay nike air max openly -and share ferragamo shoes -our zapatillas nike faith burberry outlet store -and tell new balance o-thers polo outlet of handbags outlet J-esus and ray ban outlet G-od christian louboutin shoes whether- co-worker-s or c&c beanies patie-nts juicy couture outlet or fam-ilies/frie-nds swarovski online shop of titans jerseys pat-ients. vans schuhe I longchamp outlet s-truggle wi-th ray bans depress-ion marc by marc jacobs but lacoste ha-ve nike soccer shoes an exce-llent cheap oakley sunglasses doct-or skechers womens shoes right h-ere at denver nuggets jerseys the- puma shoes outlet hospital vans shoes -and ralph lauren my north face jackets mas-ter burberry handbags outlet physic-ian God is- coach factory outlet always raiders jerseys at- spurs jerseys my kate spade side.

coach outletclarks outletpandora outletpolo outletugg bootschristian louboutin outletcoach outletuggs outletpandora charmscanada goose jacketschristian louboutin outletchristian louboutin outletcoach outlet onlinepandora jewelrymoncler outletcoach factory outletcoach outletcoach outlet onlineuggs outletugg bootspandora charmspandora outletpandora outletcanada goose outletnike shoeschristian louboutin outletcanada goose outletcanada goose outletcoach factory outletcoach outletuggs outletchristian louboutin boutiquechristian louboutincoach outletcoach factory outletchristian louboutin shoescoach outlet canadacanada goose jacketscoach outletcoach outletpandora outletcanada goose jacketsfitflops sale clearancecoach outlet onlinepandora jewelryed hardy clothingadidas outlet onlinecoach outletcoach outlet onlineugg bootscoach outletcoach outlet onlinecanada goose jacketscanada goose jacketscoach outletcanada goose outletcanada goose outletadidas nmd shoescoach outlet onlinecanada goose outletchristian louboutin outletcoach outletcanada goose outletuggs canadaadidas yeezynfl jerseyscoach outletcoach outletcanada gooseadidas yeezy shoescanada goose outletchristian louboutin outletcanada goose jacketspandora jewelrypandora charmscanada goose outletcoach outletcanada goose outletcoach outletcoach outletcoach outletchristian louboutin outletcoach outlet onlinepolo ralph laurencoach outletlacoste outletugg bootschaussures christian louboutincanada goose outletuggscanada goose outletfred perry outletcoach outlet onlinevalentino outletchristian louboutin outletcanada goose outletcanada goose outletpandora charmschristian louboutin outletcanada goose jacketscanada goose outletadidas shoespandora outletair jordan retrochristian louboutin outletpandora outletpandora charmscoach outlet onlinechristian louboutin outletcoach outletuggs canadaclarks shoespandora jewelrycoach outletcanada goose jacketscoach outletcanada goose jacketscoach factory outletcanada goose outletugg bootspandora outletcoach outlet onlinecoach outlet store onlinecoach factory outletadidas outletcoach factory outletpandora outletprada handbagspandora jewelrycanada goose outlet storeugg outletpandora jewelrycanada goose outletcoach outletchristian louboutin outletcoach outletcanada goose jacketschristian louboutin outletnike outletchristian louboutin outletugg bootscoach outlet onlinecoach outlet onlinepandora outletnike outletugg outletcanada goose outletpandora charmspandora charmsvibram fivefingersugg outletpandora outletugg boots clearancecoach outletcoach outletcanada goose jacketschristian louboutin outletnike shoes outletcoach outletcanada goose jacketsugg bootsugg outletcanada goosechristian louboutin shoescanada goose jacketsnike shoes outletcanada goose jacketschristian louboutin outletmbt shoeschristian louboutin outletcanada goose outletchristian louboutin outletcoach outlet onlinecoach outlet onlineugg bootschristian louboutin outletcanada goose jacketslacoste polopandora outletcanada goose jacketsugg bootspandora jewelry outletugg bootscheap jerseyspandora jewelrypandora charmcoach outlet canadapandora charms sale clearancechristian louboutin outletcoach outletlacoste shirtscoach factory outletcanada goose outletchristian louboutin outletcanada goose outletchristian louboutin outletcoach factory outletmichael kors outletcoach outletcanada goose jacketsugg outletcoach outlet onlinecoach outletpandora jewelrycoach outletcoach outletcanada goose outletugg boots clearancecanada goose jacketspandora jewelrycoach outletkate spade outletcoach outletnike outletcoach outletcanada goose outletchristian louboutin outletcheap snapbackscanada goose outletcoach outlet onlinefred perry polokate spade bagscoach outlet onlinepuma outletcoach outletfitflops salecanada goose jacketspandora outletmulberry handbagschristian louboutin shoesugg bootschristian louboutin outletuggs outletcanada goose outletpandora outletcoach outletugg outletcanada goose jacketscanada goosecoach factory outletkate spade handbagspandora outletcoach outletcoach outletpandora charmspandora charmscoach outletcoach outletcoach outletcanada goose outletugg outletcanada goose outletcanada goose jacketscoach outletugg bootscoach outlet onlinechristian louboutin outletcanada goose jacketscoach outletugg bootschenlili20181213