“Want to be an activist?  Start with your toys.”

By Judy Szeg, Educator, Safeline

All too often, adults seem to think that youth should be followers, not leaders.  That they should not challenge the status quo, if for no other reasons than that challenging the status quo is difficult and we adults feel that those efforts are not likely to be successful.

Thirteen year old McKenna Pope proved us wrong several years ago when she took on an issue, gender stereotype toys, which was important to her.  Her younger brother was interested in cooking but the conventional cooking toy, the Easy-Bake Oven, was designed in “girly” colors and only featured girls in its advertisements.  So, McKenna began a Change.org petition to request that toy giant Hasbro change the design of the oven and the way it is advertised.  She raised over 45,000 signatures and Hasbro agreed to make the changes she suggested.

Hear what she has to say about her endeavor in the following TED talk and, adults, take note!

Advertisements

Students and Gender Norms

By Megan Fariel, Hartford High School Alum

Guest Youth Writer and former Intern at WISE

In high school, I have noticed more gender-based traditions than in elementary and middle school. Prom, football culture, and dating in high school all seem to have some pretty clear gender expectations: The guy has to ask the girl to prom, girls wear their boyfriend’s jerseys, and so on.

Why doesn’t this happen before middle school?  While there surely is a biological change associated with puberty and development, I think a lot if it must be due to environment. Students may not realize that media consumption, role models, and exposure to new ideas can shape how they think. For example, a younger student might be more inclined to the views of his or her parents than an older student, because the younger student has not been exposed to new ideas yet.

Last fall, I decided to test this idea out with a survey of students in my school district to see how gender norms may affect us differently as we get older. I surveyed fourth, seventh, and tenth graders, for a total of ninety-five usable surveys. I asked questions that Continue reading

Get Out the (Youth) Vote: Millennials are Making Their Voices Heard

by Matt Renaud, Youth Advocate & Prevention Educator at AWARE in Hardwick, VT

It’s been a whirlwind election cycle so far, and it can only get even more interesting from here on out.  If you’ve been devoting any attention to the presidential race – even just on a peripheral level – you’ve probably heard something about how crucial youth voters will be in this year’s election.  As a Youth Advocate, and as someone who was politically involved in my earlier years, I find this really exciting (and long overdue).  We heard this same emphasis on the importance of youth voters in the last two election cycles, with then-Senator and now-President Obama running for office in 2008 and 2012, respectively.  According to Matthew Segal, who is the co-founder of OurTime.org, between 22 and 23 million millennials voted in the 2012 general election, making up 19% of the American electorate.  This was a 1% increase from the amount of youth voters in the 2008 election and there is no doubt the number of youth voters is still growing and also happens to be the most diverse group of any voters in the United States.  You can check out Matthew Segal’s article here.

By the way, I had been wondering this for a while and just in case you had been wondering, too, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “millennial” as someone born in the 1980s or 1990s (or anyone who is, or will be, between the ages of 17 and 36 during this calendar year).

Check out this short PSA about Youth Voters in this election year from OurTime.org:

It’s easy to say we need to get more youth involved in politics, but many youth may be wondering where and how to voice their ideas, concerns, hopes, and dreams regarding Continue reading