Voices’ Blog

Reflections From Our 2022 Youth Advocacy Cohort

Posted:  -  By: Kristin Lennox

youth advocacy cohort members pictured in Zoom with Voices staff

As the 2022 General Assembly session winds down, the Voices team is reflecting back on this session’s achievements, challenges, and future opportunities. Included in our reflections is the inspirational and incredible work of the young advocates in our Youth Advocacy Cohort. 

15 young change-makers met with 15 legislators during the Voices’ Youth Advocacy Day during the second official week of session. Cohort members shared their reflections on the experience and offered some advocacy wisdom that would be valuable to any aspiring or experienced advocates:

“We can make a difference…if we get more people to think like us or to hear us, it will inspire [others]. For as long as I can remember I’ve been speaking up for others…even if I am an introvert, even if I don’t like people knowing my life I’ve always spoken up because I know that…if you do it, it inspires [others] to do it…How are they gonna know what’s happening if we don’t tell them? If you don’t speak up, they’re gonna assume that you’re okay, or they’re gonna assume things on their own… That’s why it’s important to tell your story and tell them your experiences so that way they have an idea of what’s going on… and get an idea of how to help you.” – Naomi, 17 years old

“Keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t let anybody dim your purpose. Don’t let anybody dim what you really want to talk about, because you never really know who the right person will be that you effect… You could really change somebody’s life with what you talk about. Keep going. Don’t ever stop. Don’t ever let anybody silence your voice. Don’t ever let YOU silence your voice. Understand the importance of what you do… Keep pushing, because one day it will really pay off.” – Jonathan, 15 years old

“They’re just people… They are just human beings… They have feelings and emotions and they can understand and grasp where you’re coming from… [Advocacy] isn’t something that has to be scary and hard.” – Grace, 14 years old

“They need our perspective and they really appreciate what we have to say… It’s not just us coming to people that aren’t really interested and don’t really want to listen. They really, really want to know what we have to say.” – Chanel, 19 years old 

“Just keep going… They don’t know what’s going on until you speak up, and who best to tell them what’s going on then the people that are going through it right now? I always say, even if your voice wobbles, even if you can’t speak English all the way, even if you don’t fully know what’s going on at the legislative level, you know what’s going on with you and you need to share that story with the people who are making those rules and those policies.” – Nicole, 24 years old

“Talk about an honor. Literally, since the first meeting we had, you have been such an inspiration…you guys are really just inspirational. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. It could be the page in someone else’s survival guide.’ So, keep advocating, keep going…I know you guys shook any room that you were in. Just keep going. Never let anyone discourage you from whatever you’re passionate about… Keep fighting the fight.” – Drew, 25 years old

Although this session and changing administration brought unique challenges, we’re grateful for the memorable opportunities ahead for all of Virginia’s young changemakers and advocates. Check out our pre and post-test results for the advocacy day below:

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