The power of youth
October 27, 2019
Published authors, gun control advocates, climate change activists, genius programmers, and community leaders. My peers for four days at the first meeting of the Youth Collaboratory, a civic youth leadership program launched by Citizen University, could not be described as anything short of invigorating and impressive. And the most remarkable part? All 24 people were only sophomores or juniors in high school.
The program, entitled the Youth Collaboratory, was founded by Citizen University, an organization which promotes active civic engagement and community involvement in the U.S. Our 2020 cohort is the fourth year of the program. The trip to Seattle was one of three meetings of the group. The program runs a year-long session, compiling a group of sophomores or juniors from across the country to highlight a diversity of experiences, identities, and values. The result is a group with the capability to collaborate and solve the most prominent issues facing our neighborhoods, communities, cities, and country.
Amongst such an accomplished set of people, it is hard not to feel the least bit inspired. Though there are only 24 students, each one is teeming with a story, a struggle, and most importantly, a cause. As each person shared their experiences, I realized how different everyone’s background can be. From Washington to Mississippi, from New York to California, each person explained that their communities faced different problems. It was evident that each member came here with something important to say. Having been brought together to collaborate and help each other address the issues in our communities was immensely exciting.
For me, this trip affirmed a simple idea: the unrestricted power of youth. While 24 16-year-olds in a Public Library may not exactly sound like a force to be reckoned with, that is exactly what it was. In fact, I found that even in four days, the level of collaboration between a group who were virtually strangers was immense. And it was not just me that felt this way; “It was an eye-opening and life-changing opportunity” said Anum Ahmad, a sophomore from Princeton, NJ, and a member of the group. The rest of the group felt the same way, calling the experience “innovative,” “radical,” and “moving.”
For such an amazing experience, four days pass all too fast. But, until February, each of us will be busy connecting our communities by building websites, toolkits, and more. As for me, I will work towards building a website and toolkit to empower immigrants by providing resources on civic participation. Though the next meeting seems way too far away, I know the work all of us will do in our communities in the meantime will be very impactful.
To learn more about the program: