As the City of Dublin (GA) Youth Council Mayor and a NLC Youth Leader, Darrius Knight is working to help adults and youths better understand each other. The key is communication. He also advocates for prison reform.
A key part of youth advocacy is making sure the adults in the room are listening and taking action. Avinash Verma explains how youths connect with their communities differently than adults, and what that means in terms of needed resources and support. Avinash also explains how his community engagement has helped fuel is interest in aviation, including a work-learning program at the airport and with NASA.
Like many urban centers, Baltimore has seen its share of violence. And incarceration. That’s just one reason why City Councilmember Zeke Cohen feels that the way to help people build strong lives begins not when they’re adults, but as children. As Cohen says, “We either invest early on where we know every dollar we spend in the high quality early learning space pays huge dividends down the road or we pay for it on the back end.”
For many high school students across the country, the pandemic resulted in Zoom classes, missed milestones and an increase in mental health concerns. As a member of the Austin Youth Council—as well as NLC’s Council on Youth, Education and Families— Ann Vadakkan advocates not just for youth empowerment, but also for youth mental wellness, raising awareness to help reduce any stigma.
As Fremont (CA) Mayor Lily Mei notes, for four of the past five years, Fremont has been listed as the happiest city in the U.S. The city also boasts incredible diversity, drawing families across multiple backgrounds and a range of languages. One area where that diversity pays off is in education. With some 35,000 kids and 42 schools, Fremont has focused on building new early learning centers, high-ranking schools and equitable access, including with special-needs pre-K programs.
As American cities rebuild after the pandemic, much of the focus is on infrastructure. For Dr. Tonja Rucker, Director of Early Childhood Success at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families, that means not only physical needs like roads and bridges, but also the family structure, starting with its youngest members. As Dr. Rucker notes: “If the youngest residents are healthy and doing well, then the rest of things kind of fall into place and families get to be able to meet their needs.”