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March 2019Vol. 20, No. 2Eight Successful Youth Engagement Approaches

The important job of engaging youth in creating their own future can take many forms. Not only does it work toward making sure youth have a say in their communities, it helps them reach their full potential by teaching them the skills to be their own advocates and make their voices heard. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collected successful approaches to youth engagement that organizations can implement into their own practice and provides resources and examples of these approaches in practice. The approaches include the following:

  • Youth councils—These are formal bodies made up of youth who advise decision-makers on matters pertinent to young people. The American Red Cross, for example, has 13 youth members who represent the youth volunteers and work to recruit more youth to get involved.
  • Youth governance—This approach supports young people in leading an organization. Colorado 9to25, for example, is a collective, action-oriented group of Colorado youth and adults working together to help all youth ages 9-25 in the state reach their full potential and achieve positive outcomes.
  • Youth serving on boards—This approach ensures that youth voices are heard in organizational decision-making. America's Promise Alliance, for example, has two positions on its governing board reserved for young people.
  • Youth voice—This approach calls for giving youth the opportunity to express themselves, voice their ideas, and provide input for projects or programs. Youth in Focus, for example, empowers urban youth to find their voice using photography.
  • Youth leadership programs—This approach emphasizes providing leadership training to young people and giving them opportunities to develop important life skills. FosterClub's All Stars program, which is featured in the Resources section of this issue, provides a group of young people formerly in foster care with intensive leadership and public-speaking training.
  • Youth advocacy—This approach encourages youth to speak out on issues affecting them and to advocate for themselves and their needs., for example, organizes opportunities to help young people advocate for different and better policies affecting them.
  • Youth service—This approach gives youth the opportunity to nurture community connections, become more engaged in school, and be better prepared for the workforce. The National Youth Leadership Council, for example, develops young leaders through service-learning opportunities, such as their recent Project Ignition, which focuses on teen driver safety.
  • Youth organizing—This approach encourages youth to develop and implement a project or initiative that brings together their peers for a cause important to them. Young Invincibles, for example, was formed by young people to bring youth voices to the health-care reform debate.

To read more about ways to engage youth, visit the Eight Successful Youth Engagement Approaches webpage at