By Reid McCollum

We often ask, “How can we get young people more engaged in policy and politics?” Perhaps instead we should ask, “What are young people doing to engage in policy and politics and how can we support them?” 

On Sunday, April 28th, four local student-led chapters of March For Our Lives hosted a Rally for Change in Downers Grove. They were from Downers Grove, Naperville, Aurora and Geneva. 

The rally was a success and very inspiring. Several students gave powerful speeches, read moving poems, and sang songs with grace and poise. Congressman Sean Casten, teachers, and leaders from Moms Demand Action spoke as well. Dozens of students came in support, making up about half the audience. CBS had a camera there, and at least one story was written about the event by the press.

While students led the way, adults supported each step of the way in mostly invisible ways. This is a model for how we can do our part to help young activists build momentum, confidence, and engagement among their peers. 

Less than a week later, students across Chicagoland organized the Chicago Climate Strike, including several student-led groups: Illinois Youth Climate Strike, Chicago Youth Alliance for Climate Action, and Sunrise Movement Chicago. Senator Durbin and other elected officials joined young activists as speakers. Again, students led, and older adults supported them each step of the way in mostly invisible ways. The students also participated in civil disobedience by skipping school for the event. 

The pattern is clear. The youth are engaged and advocating for school safety and climate action. Our role is to listen to their advocacy, amplify it, and show up. We can also build relationships and alliances that can lead to collaboration and joint actions. We can encourage young leaders to take internships with DGTDO, candidates, or other political non-profits. We can ask them how we can be helpful and volunteer when called upon. We can find hope and inspiration in their activism. 

Here are their Twitter handles — I know that’s not something everyone is comfortable with, but we asked how to get young people more engaged in policy and politics, after all, didn’t we?