This study examines why a group of students representing two high schools became involved in an activist organization, the benefits they gained as a result, the impact they had on their school and community, and their recommendations for how school personnel can foster civic engagement in young people. The student-led group campaigned for a school levy, produced a documentary on diversity, hosted a Community Forum on school climate, and educated classmates on the root causes of hunger. Data were analyzed through the lens of positive youth development theory. Findings confirmed previous research suggesting the bi-directional nature of development, in which young people with significant developmental assets both contributed to the community and garnered additional assets as a result of their engagement. Members of the group recommended that school personnel invite and value student input, foster respectful discourse on controversial issues, show students models of engagement in the community and invite them to become involved, facilitate access to resources, and mentor students on navigating systems. The researchers recommend that school personnel foster a school climate conducive to civic engagement, nurture student leadership among all demographic groups, and promote opportunities for collective action on issues relevant to students’ lived experiences.


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pp. 66-84
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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