It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I finally had a teacher that forced us to think critically and challenged us to question the rules in our school and the content we were being taught. I remember her asking us all the time, " So what are you going to DO about it?" Whenever we would complain about other teachers or didn't like what the guidance counselor said, she would ask us that question. I appreciate her genuine interest in how we felt and thought about the world happening to us but more importantly, that she would make us do something about it.
The youth at Youth In Action are very fortunate that they get to expose to their own voice at an early age and that they are encouraged to use it. I love how they are encouraged to debate, discuss, and defend what they believe in. It’s an intellectual process that forces them to stand up for what they believe in based on personal conviction. The debates they have break down ideas, beliefs, and customs that have been forced upon them, and allows them to reconstruct them in a way that is true to who they really are at their core.
YIA models the notion “with, not to” in many ways. From the youth being active members of the board of directors, down to heated conversations about controversial topics. All the testimonials that came from the adults involved at YIA reflected their growth and the impact the youth have had on them. This shows that they too are apart of that personal reconstruction process. By letting the youth run most of the program, YIA is a living illustration of the notion “with not to.” The students all, in some way, mentioned being stripped of a voice, feeling like what happened in the classroom didn’t encourage critical thinking or have room for their authentic thoughts. At YIA those authentic thoughts are encouraged, empowered, and brought to life through the youth’s actions.