How do we empower youth leadership and provide a platform for social change?
The Young Leaders in Action program works to answer that question and prepare the next generation of global leaders.
Young Leaders in Action (YLA) is a youth-directed program that brings together approximately 20 high school students from across the greater Portland area. Participants meet twice per month from June-April to network with professional resources in the community and take part in global workshops, leadership trainings, and community service activities, and action projects. Their leadership training culminates in the annual spring-time Youth Forum which invites schools from around the greater Portland area to engage in action workshops.
In the past, the Youth Forum focused on one topic and was largely organized by staff in the Global Classrooms program. Inspired by the recent wave of youth-led initiatives surrounding climate change and gun control--the Global Classroom team decided to pass on the torch and shift focus to a youth-led program.
"We wanted to honor their process [of choosing topics] and pilot this new structure where YLA's could organize and run their own workshops as subject matter experts."
In this way, Youth Forum could transform into a space that was led by youth, for youth. YLA's were encouraged to choose their own topics based on their interests and passions--ultimately focusing on five thematic areas: climate change, immigrants and refugees, mental health, global aging, and women and girls' education. With the topics now set, these youth leaders began to expand on their initial ideas and craft workshops for the Youth Forum at Concordia University on March 15th.
Through their bi-monthly meetings, these students networked with various community organizations to explore local to global issues. These meetings exposed YLA participants to a variety of perspectives and the work being done to create meaningful solutions. They also helped to connect these young leaders with professional resources in various fields related to their Youth Forum topics.
On March 15th, students from around the greater Portland area gathered at Concordia University for the culminating Young-Leaders-In-Action Youth Forum. Many students sought out community organizations including Child Aid, Friends of the Colombia Gorge, Portland State University, Portland Refugee Support Group, Africa House, and Rethinking Schools to help facilitate their various programs at Youth Forum.
Many YLA participants also chose to lead their own workshops, using their own research to help guide students in educational classes. From simulation exercises to international skype calls--these young leaders took advantage of their experiences to provide meaningful workshops for their peers.
At the end of the day, one Youth Forum attendee from Skyview High School commented, "The Young Leaders in Action students selected relevant and engaging speakers and presentations. There was a lot of passion, expertise, and empathy!"
Youth Forum is a testament to the unlimited potential of youth leadership.