Youth are Leading the Way

The following is a reflection from our Advocacy Intern Mandia Gonzales on her time at this year’s Oregon Active Transportation Summit.


Like many of us when we were young, today’s youth crave mobility, independence, and a connection to their communities. At the 2014 Oregon Active Transportation Summit I had the privilege of attending a session titled “Youth Leading the Way”. Many of the presenters revealed their challenges to getting around Portland as young adults.

Adriana Rangel from the Multnomah Youth Council identified the transportation constraints of living in East Portland and the lack of sufficient services. A student in a school located in North Portland, Adriana experiences a commute of over an hour just to get from home to school. Camille Bales, also serving on the Multnomah Youth Commission, expressed her concern that many of her peers don’t have access to bicycles as alternative modes to transit, therefore, offering adequate transit options is essential to youth being successful.

These young ladies, along with Nicole Johnson from OPAL and Kelly Hansen from the Community Cycling Center, expressed great concerns around transit justice issues that not only affect them personally, but our community as a whole here in Portland. They noted that although they are youth, the problems they are addressing affect us all.

As advocates, planners, and policy makers we often intentionally make decisions that affect future outcomes, so here’s a chance to consider the real needs of the next generation.

Are you interested in supporting youth leadership? Some tips from the panel:

  • Create a focus group at your local school to find youth participants.
  • Identify your target (transit justice, Safe Routes to School, etc.), and start the conversation there.
  • Incentives are helpful! (Pizza is a big plus, but so is Empowerment!)
  • Let the youth lead the way, but provide staff to help support them and set roles.
  • Mentoring is essential, not only from adult to youth, but from youth to adult.
  • Roles are very complex, therefore it is important to have a strong youth/adult partnership.
  • Don’t spread yourself, or your youth group, to thin. Allow ample to time to make decisions and take actions!
  • But most importantly, make sure to give them a voice and allow them to make a change!

Today’s youth are the ones we are planning for in our 2030 comprehensive plans. Therefore, it is important to engage these young people to determine their needs over the next 20, 40, and 60 years. These are the individuals that will help to create fair and just cities for all of Oregon.

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