Student Activism: How Can You Make a Difference?

Back to Article
Back to Article

Student Activism: How Can You Make a Difference?

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






In the wake of Parkland, how can we as teenagers maintain our political activism?

America has a long and varied history of movements led by young people bringing significant change. In the past, young people have spearheaded protests for LGBT rights, civil rights, child labor laws, and more, and now with the current unrest over guns, we are in the spotlight once more.

Student activists have always been met with criticism and controversy. We are too young to vote, which limits our political power and brings doubt to our critics. Although many of our protests continue, many critics of student activism insist that teenagers are too distractible to protest continuously. In America’s current political climate, the only way we can disrupt these criticisms is to prove them wrong. How can we maintain our drive to protest, as stories of student activism rotate out of the news cycle, and our voices are silenced by out of touch politicians?

Educate yourself and others

While admittedly complicated, political engagement as a teenager is necessary to fully understand the political word as a voting adult. In a free democracy, citizens have a civil responsibility to educate themselves on the ins and outs of their government; how could you cast a well-informed vote as an eighteen year old if you didn’t tune into politics for the previous seventeen years? It can be as simple as downloading a new app on your phone or just listening to the news on the radio. As you become more informed about issues you care about, initiate conversations with peers. The more political discussions are normalized, the more progress we can make.

Make a difference in your community

One of the most important aspects of student advocacy is its immediate effects. With enough drive, numbers, and perseverance, students can make a real difference in their schools and greater communities. If you find yourself unsatisfied by protest alone but still want to continue your activism, there are few better ways than being active in your own school or town. Volunteer for a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Raise money for a charity you admire. Talk to your school board to change unfair policy. Run for student government. Start a club dedicated to a cause important to you. Even simple things like writing your senator can have an impact.

Put your skills to use

Protests and activism aren’t all storming the streets and yelling into a bullhorn. There’s room for all sorts of skill sets in protests, and while there’s a time and a place for public demonstration, movements also need petitions, fundraising, networking, planning, press releases, and much, much more. If you’ve felt like you can’t contribute much to protests, try seeking a role that better suits your talents.

Engage online

Voting is one way to make your voice heard, but just because you may be too young doesn’t mean you’re silenced. The digital age has brought a new era of politics, where anyone can access an open well of information via the internet. There’s no longer any reason for people to be ignorant about social or political issues. The somewhat recent development of using social media to raise public awareness has been largely driven by young people. If you have a significant online presence, take advantage of that! Start your own awareness campaign utilizing platforms like Twitter and Instagram vessels for your message.

Demonstrate

Sometimes the best way to express your political frustration is through physical demonstration. Luckily, through coordination on social media, there’s never been a better time to protest. Meeting like-minded people in a politically-charged setting can be extremely unifying, and can help students feel like a part of a larger movement. Even if you’re unable to attend a protest away from school, you can make posters or participate in moments of silence to convey your message.

As young people, our greatest strength is our voices. We may be too young to vote now, but through our inevitable future as the next generation of voters, we hold the power of promise: If politicians don’t change their policy, we will vote them out of office as soon as we’re able. Even the youngest among us will be able to vote in several years. I guarantee that when we cast that first ballot, we won’t forget the unfair criticism and inaction we’ve been met with.