Raising Youth Voices
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Michigan’s Children knows that when more voices are connected directly with policymakers in proven effective ways, better policies are created and supported. Further, people who are directly impacted by public policies are good resources for strengthening and successfully implementing public policies and programs – children, youth and families themselves and the programs in communities that serve them. We also know that it isn’t always easy to figure out how those connections can best be made.
Michigan’s Children provides forums for legislators and other policymakers to hear young people describe the problems facing children and youths from their own perspective. Michigan’s Children has been creating opportunities for young people to share their stories, concerns and suggestions directly with policymakers since 1996, and continues to find new ways to provide young people and the supporting adults around them with the tools they need to advocate on their own behalf. Connecting the experiences of young people directly with policymakers has provided Michigan’s Children with firsthand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities that play a key role in our policy priority setting. In addition, linking powerful stories of young people directly with policymakers themselves has proven to be an effective advocacy strategy. Young people have been the best messengers for key issues like foster care and educational success. Their voices have changed the trajectory of policy conversation and have resulted in additional champions for youth-driven solutions in the Legislature, several Departments and other local policymaking bodies.
Youth-Led Candidate Forums
To impact the 2014 Election season, Michigan’s Children developed a series of forums in different areas of the state led by young people asking the important questions to candidates for Michigan Legislative districts. Post-election, we continued to work with our organizational partners to provide information and opportunities to continue to connect with elected officials in their communities and will expand our forum reach for the 2016 election cycle.
Michigan’s Children developed our signature KidSpeak® event in 1996 where young people connect directly with decision-makers. These opportunities can be at the State Capitol or in places of local decision making like county or city commission chambers.
Youth Voices Changing Public Policy
Due to legislative term-limits and the expanding power of local constituencies on policymakers – even those providing leadership on budget or program committees – we created Youth Voices Changing Public Policy experiences where we bring policymakers to a youth serving organization to then hear from young people, talk with adults who serve the program and experience the impact of the service first-hand.
Youth Legislative Day
Over the years, Michigan’s Children also sponsored one of the most authentic policy learning experiences that young people can have in Lansing, called Youth Legislative Day. With the help of select legislators, staff, and lobbyists, students are trained in drafting, researching, writing, debating and voting upon legislation at the Capitol, giving them a heightened awareness of public policy and deeper interest in civic involvement. Because of our long-term relationships with policymakers, staff and lobbyists, we are able to create an experience that mirrors that of a Legislator, complete with votes on the House floor with the House voting equipment. We understand that no other group has been allowed this extraordinary and impactful experience with “kids at the capitol” types of activities.