“The youth who will lead us in the future are already here.” -Dr. Jacqueline Jones Royster
The BLTN Next Generation Leadership Network brings together community educators and young people, digitally and in person, from Lawrence, Atlanta, Louisville, Santa Fe, the Navajo Nation, and rural South Carolina and Vermont to address issues identified by youth, and to advocate collectively and powerfully for social justice.
Imagination and Action
Creative expression is a mainstay of BLTN NextGen. Youth regularly host cross-site and cross-generational open mic events and they include writing and sharing as regular parts of Youth Advisory Board meetings. Youth voices from NextGen reach local and national audiences, from local family literacy nights to center stage at the National Council of Teachers of English.
“We used writing, photography, spoken word, and art to connect with each other. … We explored the possibility that our passion and the written word were our most powerful tools in the process of change. Everything we did led us in the direction of becoming better leaders. …Since then, we have been connected, working endlessly to push the notion that the future generation is now, not later.”
Networked Youth Advocacy
Prior to the pandemic, youth convened in several cross-site conferences per year. Since March of 2020, they have met virtually to share strategies for local advocacy work including mask-wearing campaigns, local history curation, documentary film creation, cross-age mentoring, climate, and equity issues.
“I feel like this program has already changed my life…Before I joined NextGen, I kept my thoughts on our societal issues to myself, thinking that no one would listen or take my views seriously, but NextGen has changed that perspective for me. For the first time, I feel as though my voice is important and that a change in the way society perceives youth is possible.”