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Eight Successful Youth Engagement Approaches

Youth councils

Many elected officials and both governmental and non-governmental organizations across the country have created youth councils: formal bodies made up of youth who advise decision makers on matters pertinent to young people.

The American Red Cross National Youth Council (NYC) has 13 youth members and three adult advisers who nationally represent the youth volunteers of the American Red Cross and seeks to promote young volunteers as an organizational resource.

Resources You Can Use:

  • Recruiting and Retraining Young Leaders, School-Based Health Alliance 

Youth governance

Support young people in leading an organization and encourage them to develop efforts that nurture healthy adolescents.

Colorado 9to25 is a collective, action-oriented group of Colorado youth and adults working in partnership to align efforts and help all youth ages 9-25 in the state reach their full potential and achieve positive outcomes.

Youth serving on boards

Consider establishing a youth position on your organization’s governing board and ensure it is filled regularly.

America's Promise Alliance was created to bring together individuals, institutions, and sectors to share the responsibility to help young people succeed. America's Promise has two positions on its governing board reserved for young people.

Resource You Can Use:

  • Youth Board Members (Contains some information about legal implications and alternatives.) (2012), Nonprofit Law blog

Youth voice

An important component of youth engagement is creating opportunities for youth to express themselves, voice their ideas, and provide input for projects or programs. It is critical for youth to actually be heard.

Youth in Focus empowers urban youth, through photography, to experience their world in new ways and to make positive choices for their lives by finding their voice and learning how to express it.

Resource You Can Use:

Youth leadership programs

A wide variety of youth leadership programs exist throughout the United States to provide leadership training to young people and give them opportunities to develop important life skills.

The FosterClub's All Stars program provides a group of young people (formerly in foster care) each year with intensive leadership and public speaking training and sends them to teen conferences and foster care-related events across the country.

Resource You Can Use:

Youth advocacy

Offer ways for youth to speak out on issues affecting adolescent health, such as texting, later start times in schools, tobacco use, or healthy eating, and to advocate for themselves and their needs.

SparkAction.org has organized a number of opportunities to help young people advocate for different and better policies.

Resource You Can Use:

Youth service

Youth who participate in service projects tend to feel more community connections, are more engaged in school, and better prepared for the workforce.

The National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) develops young leaders through service-learning opportunities, such as their recent Project Ignition on teen driver safety. NYLC offers leadership opportunities, training, and resources to help adolescents address issues that matter to them.

Resource You Can Use:

Youth organizing

Encourage youth to develop and implement a project or initiative that brings together their peers for a cause related to adolescent and young adult health.

Young Invincibles was formed in 2009 by young people to bring youth voices to the health care reform debate. Young Invincibles has expanded to help youth speak out on education, jobs, and a variety of other issues.

Resource You Can Use:


Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on February 26, 2019