My Voice: Youth Participation in an Adult-Driven World

introducing Dalainee Viernes

“Not taking youth seriously isn’t just a political reaity; I am carving out space for my own voice right here, right now as a part of the YouthWorks Council. I am a young adult giving my say and taking charge of youth health in the YakimaValley.”

On a late Tuesday night in November, I found myself curled up on my couch under a mountain of blankets watching the news. It was sort of an important night for America: election night 2012. Every four years, I find myself in this same position, eagerly counting the electoral votes with the TV, phone in one hand (texting my friends) and my iPad on my lap, keeping track of Facebook and Twitter.

I had just missed the cut off for voting in 2012; I turned eighteen just four months later. As it was, some of my friends could vote in the election, but most were in the same predicament as me and had to wait another four years.

Still, I was wrought with nerves. I had watched the presidential campaign closely and was shockingly mentally and emotionally involved in this race. I kept most of my attention on the news announcing electoral votes as they were cast, but a small amount of my attention had to the social networking feeds in my hand.

“…youth today suffer not from a lack of interest, I think, but rather from a comprehensive belief that they don’t have a say until they are legally defined as “adults.””

In this day and age, social networking has just as much of an impact on my political views as my own research and experiences, and I was dismayed to find that my friends did not share the same interests as myself. Unfortunately, the general consensus of the youth of Twitter and Facebook seemed to revolve around one idea: “Can’t vote? Can’t talk.” Basically, they all thought that if you were too young to vote, then you had no right to an opinion, or at least no right to voice that opinion. “We don’t care” was trending among my friends.

I couldn’t believe that so many of my generation had no interest in something that would largely affect THEIR future… In fact, I didn’t believe it and I still don’t. The youth today suffer not from a lack of interest, I think, but rather from a comprehensive belief that they don’t have a say until they are legally defined as “adults.” We believe that our opinion does not matter in the real world because the real world doesn’t take us seriously.

And we’re right– the adults of the world do not take the younger generation seriously.

What my generation needs to realize that though we may be young, we still have the right to a voice.  And that voice can and should be heard. We, united, must bring ourselves to advocate for ourselves.

Who else will?

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Sure FairVote and The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) do great work studying youth impact, spreading the good word, etc. But ultimately, it is on us, young people, to get engaged.

Not taking youth seriously isn’t just a political reaity; I am carving out space for my own voice right here, right now as a part of the YouthWorks Council. I am a young adult taking charge, saying my say about youth health in the YakimaValley.

I may not have been able to vote this past election, but there are opportunities everywhere.  And I will make absolutely sure, without a shadow of a doubt, in everything I do, that my voice is heard.

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