BY ASTRAEA AUGSBERGER,
MARY ELIZABETH COLLINS,
AND WHITNEY GECKER
The role of citizen participation is widely understood to be crucial for effective democratic governance. Youth are citizens too but their participation in government, while often thought to be a good idea, is not widely practiced and understood. Several arguments have been advanced to underscore the importance of youth involvement. First, youth may benefit from participation in government process. Often identified under the concepts of civic engagement and positive youth development, benefits that accrue to the young person include feelings of empowerment, competence, and connection. They gain information about their options and rights, develop decision-making skills, develop an understanding of decision processes, and gain a sense of control in these processes. Thus, participation may also enhance young peoples’ interests and propensity to engage in community service, political action, or other forms of public engagement. For some, it may facilitate career interest and development in public service. Second, the community may gain from youths’ participation. Youth can provide relevant information that leads to better-informed decisionmaking, particularly, in regard to policies that affect young people. Third, as a matter of social justice, youth have a right to engage in decisions that impact their lives. Even in the absence of other measurable beneficial outcomes...
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