Supporting Youth Leadership In Digital Spaces

Kristina Gorr

As the Internet becomes more embedded in our daily lives, Mozilla believes we need to broaden participation to make it a more inclusive, open platform and experience for all. Mozilla supports this belief by fueling new approaches to digital learning through initiatives such as Hives, Clubs and Gigabit cities.

During our November community call, we highlighted efforts across our network that focus on developing youth as leaders – on and offline.

Mozilla’s Hive Chicago and Hive NYC worked together to facilitate a Q&A style panel discussion that focused on supporting young people’s development as they work to change social issues that matter to them. Call curators and special guests included:

  • Rita Geladze, Educator’s Camp, NYC
  • Vanessa Sanchez, Yollocalli Arts Reach, Chicago
  • Eva L., Youth organizer, Black Lives Matter Chicago
  • Chrystian Rodriguez, Network Manager, Mozilla Hive NYC
  • Hana Sun, Portfolio Strategist, Mozilla Hive NYC
  • Kenyatta Forbes, Community Manager, Mozilla Hive Chicago

Linking Youth Leadership, Mentorship & Digital Spaces

The Q&A style panel discussion revealed a common thread that the panelists’ own paths to youth leadership began in programs that had one-on-one adult mentors who encouraged and supported their growth. For Rita and Vanessa, leadership development started at summer camps, clubs, and other local organizations. Chrystian had a teacher who introduced him to resources that connected his passion for the arts with online media as a method for developing his own political consciousness. Eva’s mother brought her to social movement events throughout her childhood, supporting her positive sense of identity and confidence as a young black woman.

Taking advantage of these introductory pathways, digital spaces are an opportunity to challenge and push for youth engagement and leadership as change agents. Youth voices can be shared far and wide online, and add a vital, underrepresented perspectives to conversations that could not be possible without a healthy internet.

Adults can do a lot to ally themselves with young people and support them in sharing their voices and stories online to impact issues that are important to their communities. It’s a mentor’s responsibility to encourage youth to think through and express their thoughts in an impactful, inspiring way. Digital spaces–which provide opportunities for deep reflection, expression and call to action–can be perfect outlets for adults and youth to work together and harness the potential of these online environments.

A few tips on positioning yourself to support youth in a positive manner were discussed during the call. For example, Vanessa shared a great tip about not tokenizing youth for one’s own benefit, but working alongside them and validating them as people with their own lived experiences. Acknowledging young people’s experiences is also key, according to Chrystian, who reminds us that experiences are different from person to person, regardless of age. Eva added that allowing youth to make their own mistakes and learn along their journey is especially important to validating their identity and respecting their experiences.

There is a lot to improve upon as we head into the future, with youth looking to adults for guidance and mentorship both on and offline. Mozilla Learning will continue to serve local and global communities by acting as a connector for digital resources and networks. We hope you’ll join us to build a more inclusive, open Internet for all.

You can watch the entire community call below to learn more about each guest’s ongoing work. You can also add your thoughts to the etherpad here.

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