Youth Leadership

In recent years, youth leadership has been receiving more attention, as scholars and educators are discovering the many ways it can positively impact our younger generation and society in general. Leadership roles encourage students to become engaged in their schools and larger communities, promoting positive character development in the areas of teamwork, accountability, and decision-making, among other important life skills.1, 6

Scholars have pointed out that it can be difficult to support youth leadership in schools, as the traditional norms of academic institutions often place teachers and staff in positions of authority.3, 4 Adults however can play a key role in fostering youth leadership development by building relationships and granting students autonomy and independence, while remaining respectful of them and attentive to their experiences.2

Programs such as the Youth Tobacco Prevention Program and the Texas Youth Preparedness Initiative are built on a foundation of youth leadership and engagement. The Texas School Safety Center supervises several youth leadership groups, such as the Teen School Safety Alliance, the Texas Teen Ambassadors, the Texas Say What! Youth Engagement Movement, and the Texas Youth Preparedness Initiative.

By engaging youth as leaders, we teach them important skills in community service and democratic citizenship. Not only does leadership benefit our youth, it benefits our society as a whole. Investing in our youth is investing in the future of our nation.

Youth Promoting Safe and Healthy Environments


For more than a decade, the federal government has funded a campaign targeted at curbing adolescent drug use - the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Although research deemed the campaign unsuccessful in the early years, recent studies have noted the impact it has had on national rates of youth drug use. One of the changes to the campaign, which led in part to this recent success, is the focus on involving youth in program and content development. The campaign is now inspired by what youth share about their lives and how they deal with certain situations. (Read more…)

The Positive Effects of Youth Community Engagement


Researchers have begun to study the interaction between youth engagement and positive development (Brennan and Barnett 2009; Brennan, Barnett, and Baugh 2007; Brennan, Barnett, and Lesmeister 2007; Brennan, Barnett, McGrath 2009; Crooks, Chiodo, Thomas, and Hughes 2009; Ludden 2011; Pearrow 2008). Youth engagement is defined as "meaningful participation and sustained involvement of a young person in an activity, with a focus outside of him or herself" (Crooks, Chiodo, Thomas, and Hughes 2009). For the purposes of this article, a community refers to the geographical boundaries established by municipalities (e.g., city or town), a neighborhood, and/or a school environment encompassed within larger geographical boundaries (e.g., a campus or a district). (Read more…)

Texas Tobacco-Free Kids Day Activities


Texas Tobacco-Free Kids Day (TTFKD) is an annual awareness day, sponsored by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC), to encourage students of all ages to live tobacco-free lifestyles. TTFKD is held in conjunction with Kick Butts Day, a national event sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The day is an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in tobacco prevention efforts. On Kick Butts Day, thousands of youth will organize activities to expose and counter the tobacco industry's powerful promotional strategies aimed at youth. Some of the past activities include youth-led rallies in state capitals, surveys of tobacco advertising in local stores and street activism events. This guide will provide activity ideas and other information to assist in conducting some really cool awareness events and activities!


1 Detzier, M. L., Van Liew, C., Dorward, L. G., Jenkins, R., & Teslicko, D. (2007). Youth voices thrive in Facilitating Leadership in Youth. New Directions for Youth Development, 2007(116), 109-116. doi: 10.1002/yd.238

2 Mansfield, K. C. (2014). How listening to student voices informs and strengthens social justice research and practice. Educational Administration Quarterly, 50(3), 392-430. doi: 10.1177/001316X13505288

3 Mitra, D., Serriere, S., & Krishner, B. (2014). Youth participation in U.S. contexts: Student voice without a national mandate. Children & Society, 28(4), 292-304. doi: 10.1111/chso.12005

4 Mitra, D., Serriere, S., & Stoicovy, D. (2012). The role of leaders in enabling student voice. Management in Education (Sage Publications, Ltd.), 26(3), 104-112. doi: 10.11777/0892020612445678

5 Rouse, K. (2012). The impact of high school leadership on subsequent educational attainment. Social Science Quarterly, 93(1), 110-129. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00836.x

6 Thomson, P. (2012). Understanding, evaluation and assessing what students learn from leadership activities: Student research in Woodlea Primary. Management in Education, 26(3), 96-103.