By: Ana Staskevich, Staff Writer
We have been seeing a resurgence of youth-led activism as of late, ranging from protests over detrimental education reform to gun control movements. It is safe to say that this wave of advocacy, primarily high school student-run, has garnered as much attention as the student movements that shaped college life in the 60s.
However, youth movements and youth activism now involve younger generations than ever before. The onus is no longer placed solely on college students. In fact, we are seeing that the level of grievance felt by younger generations is resulting in advocacy for change.
Youth today are forced into positions of activism because of looming threats to their safety, well-being, and undoubtedly their future. I believe that we, as older university students, should nurture the voices of the younger generations and support their participation in civic engagement and collaborative demonstrations.
In fact, there are already existing campaigns and causes that we can assist younger generations with by providing funds through pledge drives, or bringing awareness to them through advertising. For example, the global climate crisis has prompted a student protest called the Bay St. march, in which children as young as seven years old are demonstrating. To show solidarity for their cause, university students should hold our own marches, sit-ins, and awareness campaigns. Most of us have much more experience and a long legacy of college activism to draw from.
Of course, the reason that these youth-led movements are even happening is because older generations are ultimately failing to address big issues like climate change and violence in schools. Rather than finding ways to prevent these tragedies from happening, the common responses from world leaders is nonchalance and flat-out denial. Due to a lack of proper action being taken, disasters like mass shootings are becoming routine to the public. Even the global climate crisis is met with skepticism and cynical profiteering, allowing climate change denial to flourish.
It is reprehensible that the overall chaotic and unjust conditions of society have put such pressures on youth — specifically those in high school and elementary school — to take on the leadership roles of social campaigns. In other words, we are living in a society that forces children to “grow up” at a ridiculously young age.
Rather than leaving our younger generations to fill shoes too big for them without any support, we must help them pave the way to change. As university students, we arguably have more resources and knowledge that we can offer as aid. This includes having prior experience in organizing campaigns that we can share with younger students. Additionally, universities are perfect places to host events and gather funds, whereas places like high schools and elementary schools may struggle with having their young activists be taken seriously. As such, we can help younger students get access to more funds through our own involvement and pledge drives.
The reality is that this new age of student activism will continue to rise, encompassing youth as early as elementary school. We must help lessen the burden on our younger students, to allow them to see their futures are not all dependent on their advocacy alone. By helping to carry out more campaigns or marches, we can aid in nurturing young activist voices.
This new era of student activism must be met with helping hands, rather than putting the sole burden on the shoulders of literal children.