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Challenge: Adultism
Working in partnership with adults can be tough, because they are not used to sharing power and control with you and other young people.

Adultism - the behaviors and attitudes which flow from negative stereotypes adults hold about youth.

- John Bell

How do these stereotypes express themselves?

  • "You are too young to understand."
  • "Pay attention when I am talking to you."
You can probably think of a few more!

What can you do to change these attitudes?

Challenge: Youthism
Like adults, youth can be challenged by stereotypes, too.

Are you suffering from youthism?

Do you assume adults "don't have a clue" about what young people do, think or feel just because they are older?

Check out your own attitudes toward adults by participating in Project Implicit, a real time Harvard University experiment about attitudes. Read the preliminary information and click "I wish to proceed" to participate. Then scroll down to choose Age IAT.

Take Action in Organizations

Take Action in OrganizationsYoung leaders can make a difference in youth programs and organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, 4H, and in schools. No organization is perfect, and your input is needed to improve what's happening for youth.

You know best what interests you and what the issues are in your organization. That's why adult leaders in these places need to hear from you.

Youth leadership can take many forms in agencies and programs. You can be involved in planning and decision making, in doing and evaluating.

Think about yourself in different roles and look at ways to impact an agency or institution you are involved with. Start small and move up:


  • (Co-)facilitate a workshop/lesson
  • Mentor a younger youth
  • Organize an Open House
  • Be a peer educator
  • Participate in a community service project
  • Organize a fundraiser


  • Join a youth advisory group/student government
  • Speak out at a youth forum
  • Participate in focus groups/surveys
  • Produce radio/TV/videos so youth voices can be heard
  • Advocate for change
  • Evaluate youth programs

Shared Leadership

Some of these positions may not exist in your organization. To make change for young people, you may need to advocate to create these positions.
  • Voting member, Board of Directors
  • Member of hiring committee
  • Member, Board of Education
  • Program leader
  • Political office (18 years and up)

Powerless or Powerful?

You want to be taken seriously when you take on leadership positions in a program or organization. Adults might need your help to become your allies or supporters - you may need to work against adultism.

The ladder of youth participation shows the difference between powerless youth roles and meaningful youth roles.

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