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Education Opinion

Youth in Front: Urgent Advice about Youth Activism for Students and Teachers

By Justin Reich — March 07, 2018 2 min read

If students in your school are considering organizing, protesting, and walking out, they have questions and you have questions. What’s the point of a protest? Will I be safe? Will I be alone? Will I get in trouble? What happens after a march?

In the past two weeks, I’ve been working with over 100 volunteers to develop a new online resource, YouthInFront, to help answer those questions. We sourced questions from students and educators around the country, and we interviewed 30 experience youth activists and allies for answers. On behalf of our community, we invite you to investigate youthinfront.org.

From the About page:

All around the country, inspired by activists from Ferguson to Parkland, a generation of young people are considering participating in their first political action or protest. They have questions. What’s the point of a walkout? Will I get in trouble? What happens after a march?

YouthInFront is a community-created online learning resource. We started by interviewing and surveying youth about their questions, and then sourced questions from adult allies and educators as well. We believed the best people to answer those questions are experienced youth activists and allies. During an 18 day sprint from Feb 13 to March 7, we interviewed nearly 30 youth activists and educators, reviewed youth-produced and youth-focused resources from around the web, and benefitted from the generous contributions of media producers, civic educators, youth activists and organizers, software engineers, and many others.

The YouthInFront community is made up of individuals with diverse array of beliefs about public policy, the tactics and strategy of protest, and how adults can best and most appropriately support students. What we all agree on, though, is that youth-led civic activism can transform society for the better. Young people are powerful civic actors, and during their apprenticeship of citizenship, their voices deserve to be heard. The youth in our community are leaders; the adults in our community are supporting them as they march up front.

YouthInFront was kicked off by three longtime civic educators: Justin Reich from MIT, Doug Pietrzak from Fresh Cognate, and Meira Levinson from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Yes, this means that YouthInFront site was planned and organized by adults - but we hope that we have used the wealth of resources at our disposal to provide a model of how adults can support youth who are leading the way. We quickly had nearly 100 volunteers from Cambridge, Boston, and across the country, and we gratefully acknowledge their many contributions.

YouthInFront is supported by a wide variety of organizations, led by the Harvard Graduate School of Education Usable Knowledge project, the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, Fresh Cognate, Justice in Schools, and the HGSE Teaching and Learning Lab. A wide variety of other organizations sent resources, offered suggestions, and shared our site within their networks. We gratefully acknowledge these informal partners below.

The majority of project resources were generously provided by volunteers; we also gratefully acknowledge financial support from the HGSE Dean’s Office and Dean James Ryan.

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