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The Youth Are Mobilizing. Here's How Adults Can Help

Community members hold signs in favor of gun legislation in Brattleboro, Vt.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Members of the community gather outside Brattleboro Union High School Wednesday to support a student-led walkout. Commentator Kiran Waqar shares ways adults can support student action.

Historically young people haven’t had the best reputation: Teens have often been characterized as too busy texting and tweeting to be aware of or to engage in current events.

However, despite this stereotype, youth have been organizing, most recently around gun reform.

Students in Parkland and around the country, including our own Vermont, are showing that young people are aware and ready to act.

We’ve met with legislators, given testimonies, spoken at press conferences, and organized national walkouts.

In addition, on March 24, we’ll be marching nationwide in Washington, D.C., as well as in Rutland and Montpelier. And youth involvement won’t end here nor is it limited to high school students. Youth of all ages from eight to 18 are interested in making the change they want to see.

And here are some ways adults can help:

In our vocabulary, our experiences, and our resources young people are coming from a different perspective.

Our ideas have merit and we’re capable of doing more than designing t-shirts and choosing flavors for ice-cream — if adults are willing to listen.
It’s also important for adults to avoid patronizing and tokenizing behavior. Young people are more than photos to include on brochures or as bullet points in marketing campaigns.

Perhaps the scariest thing about being a youth activist is being in adult-only spaces.

Activist movements take generational work.

In fact, you need young people in your organizations. So when you invite us, create space for us.

Another necessary accommodation is to keep in mind that while young people have the capability to be amazing activists, most of us have to prioritize our own education. Adult organizers will need to be flexible, and work with school hours, parental restraints, and transportation limits.

Intersectionality is also a factor.

Just like adults, young people come from a diversity of backgrounds. Beyond the adult-youth power dynamics, our interactions are layered with race, gender, sexuality, class and citizenship. We need you to constantly reflect on how your actions impact our relationships.

Young people, just like everybody else, want to see a better future. We’re here to organize, mobilize, and if need be, revolutionize.

And since we’ve grown up with social media at our finger tips, we know fake friends when we see them.

We don’t need fake allies, too.