Reinvent how you work with youth

We knew how much positive influence high school students could have over middle schoolers, so we set out early on to bring older youth into our work as leaders and mentors. We were immediately impressed by how dedicated our high school students were and how relevant their ideas were that we began to bring them into our creative and planning processes much earlier on than we had in the past. They became the creative catalysts, and we began to follow their lead.

For example, our youth completely spearheaded their “Third Choice” campaign around the Twilight movies, which successfully engaged thousands of their peers in meaningful and critical conversations about the relationship issues those films raised. Without that campaign, all of those young people would have still gone to see the movies, but few would have had a forum to reflect critically and constructively on them. Our youth knew what would get young people involved—they marketed the screenings, chose the prizes to give away, created a vibrant campaign page on Facebook, and even ran an essay contest. They engaged with the substance of the movies and were able to lead discussions that related the fictional movies to the real experiences their generation faces every day in a way that none of us adults could have.

Watching them work, I learned firsthand that young people truly do have the power to create change—especially among their peers.