Teen Led Advocacy is Effective


photo by Joel Lev-Tov

Students protest for action on the climate crisis during a September 20 strike in Washington, D.C.

by Ria Endishaw and

Throughout history, we have seen teens lead protests, marches, and speak out for what they believe in. From the Greensboro Four – the black teens that staged a sit-in inside a diner in 1960 fighting against segregation – to local students with Moco for Change – the students striving to bring about change on the local and national level – teens have always been advocating for what is right. While many doubt the power and influence of student-led advocacy, if a teen has the ambition and the ability, they can make an impact. Skeptics of the effectiveness of youth advocacy need look no further than the March For Our Lives movement.

March For Our Lives was a wide teen-led march and campaign for gun safety in America. More than 200,000 people participated on March 24, 2018, in Washington DC. After this event, seven state legislatures passed laws that added a background check requirement or strengthen an already existing law. Eleven states have enacted laws that keep firearms away from domestic abusers. Four states passed stricter laws that set/raised the minimum age a person can be to buy a firearm. More than 50 gun laws have been passed after these marches, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The marches may not have directly caused the passage of these laws. Maybe the actual shootings and massacres led to these bills. But how would state legislatures have realized the severity of the problem if the teens who experienced and feared mass shootings didn’t speak up and help lawmakers realize the magnitude of the problem at hand? That is the power of teen-led advocacy in a nutshell.

The younger generation has more knowledge about social issues. Teens encounter these issues and identify them more often than the older generation.  And the want for a better future is what gives these teens the passion.

Teen advocacy is perhaps best represented by Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old girl that has been the face of the campaign calling on governments to fight climate change.

“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” Thunberg exclaimed passionately, seemingly choking back tears, at the 2019 UN climate action summit in New York.

Teenagers have just as much of a voice and are just as passionate as adults are. Teenagers are held to the same standards adults are, so they should be able to get the same representation adults do. But that isn’t reality.

“We always hear praise, saying we support the young people’s voices and their advocacy, but when has that actually been put down on paper, when has that actually turned into action?” Montgomery County Student Member of the Board of Education Nate Tinbite rightly questions.

Teen advocacy should be supported. Recently, the Montgomery County Board of Education rejected Policy KEA, which would have allowed high school students to have three excused absences from school to participate in civic engagement activities (protests, marches, voter drives, etc.). The Board of Education had the chance to let high school teens to feel more capable and supported in their causes, a huge step forward for teen advocacy. It takes communities backing up and supporting a cause to make a profound change: Teens need to be more than just heard. They need to be supported.