Supporting Young Leaders: The Importance of Engaging in Youth Advocacy as an Adult

Supporting Young Leaders: The Importance of Engaging in Youth Advocacy as an Adult

Engaging in Youth Advocacy is more than just employment. It is a huge responsibility, and privilege, to befriend and mentor young people and champion their causes. We help shape a promising tomorrow.

When we were young, we benefited from the support of adult leaders. As I (Nicolas) wondered how to help my mom quit commercial tobacco use, and I (McKenzie) wondered how to inspire other young people from marginalized communities to pursue higher education, adults gave us advice and resources. Using Hart’s Ladder of Participation (see image below), our adult advocates empowered us in a way that established equity between us and them in leadership and decision-making. They understood that their youth have unique insight and can more easily engage young people. And we understood that heeding their wisdom could prevent us from making the same mistakes they made when they were our age.

Now we are adults dedicated to ensuring that youth feel a sense of belonging and appreciation within the spaces we create, using as blueprints for our work the adult partnerships that empowered us to be where we are today. We know the challenges young people can face, from mental health struggles to social inequities and more. These obstacles are why we became involved in youth engagement. I (Nicolas) wanted to end the tobacco industry’s discriminatory targeting of the Latino community, to which I belong. I (McKenzie) wanted to build upon the volunteer work I did in college – mentoring high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds and empowering them to use their voices on issues they care about. We take great pride in equipping them with essential tools, unwavering support, and access to valuable resources that empower them to cultivate resilience and triumph over adversity. Through our involvement in Youth Advocacy Engagement, we actively contribute to the cultivation of tomorrow's trailblazers. It fills us with awe and admiration as we watch the remarkable growth of the young people we support. The knowledge that we play a role in shaping future catalysts for change, pioneers of innovation, is uplifting. We are honored to amplify youth voices and look forward to continuing to help young people improve our world.

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