Youth cannot vote, but their voices need to be heard.
Youth are disproportionately affected by poverty and violence, yet they are largely absent from discussions of policies to address these problems. In Flint, Michigan, however, one policy maker sought the opinions of his young constituents and then transformed their words into actions.
This year, Congressman Dan Kildee met with participants from the Youth Empowerment Solutions program on two separate occasions to talk about their neighborhoods, crime and the challenges they face on a daily basis. These meetings led directly to legislation that Congressman Kildee introduced to support funding for after school programming and crime prevention programs in Michigan and across the nation. Flint has also recently been awarded funding for blight elimination in these neighborhoods.
Connecting youth to leaders in the community is an essential component of the Youth Empowerment Solutions program and fits in with our model of empowerment to promote positive youth development.
It allows youth the opportunity to meet decision makers, and learn about the political and legislative process. It also gives them the opportunity to discuss the problems that affect them on a daily basis and to develop solutions for their communities.
Equally important, it gives policy makers the opportunity to hear and learn about challenges in the community from a unique perspective.
In the meetings, Congressman Kildee stated that he heard the youth talk about four things that would make their community safer: 1) More police in their neighborhood, 2) Being careful about who is allowed to get guns, 3) More non-school hour opportunities for young people, 4) Addressing blight in the neighborhoods. Their discussion is captured in this video:
We are now seeing positive outcomes of these discussions. Youth have the power create change and their ideas for solutions can help inform policy.
Read more about the legislation: Congressman Kildee Introduces Legislation Aimed at Reducing Violence, Press Release February 19th,