November 12, 2021

The Kentucky Student Voice Team and Institute for Citizens & Scholars Release New Report, “The Co-Creation Generation”

The Kentucky Student Voice Team and the Institute for Citizens & Scholars recently released a report and toolkit titled, “The Co-Creation Generation: The Story of the Kentucky Student Voice Team & Guide to Intergenerational Change.” The one-of-a-kind report is meant to help young people and adults develop teams that center youth voice, build coalitions, and improve communities.

The “Co-Creation Generation” project comes at a time when policy decisions that disproportionately impact youth (including public health measures, school-based curricula, climate initiatives, and fiscal spending) are being argued and decided by adults in hyper-polarized public spaces and covered broadly across the media. At the same time, research indicates that the generation coming of age now are more socially and politically aware, more engaged, and feel more optimistic about their ability to affect change. “It is imperative that young people have a seat at the table when decisions are being made that will impact our lives and our future,” said Pragya Upreti, a KSVT co-leader and high school senior. “We deserve to be there. We are qualified to be there. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a culture or system to support sustained and meaningful youth voices in these spaces. But it’s critical that we build that, and fast.”

Co-authoring the report was a natural fit for the Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT). In 2021, after eight years as a program of an adult-led organization, the Team spun off as an independent and youth-led non-profit. The group has found significant success collecting and amplifying the voices of students across Kentucky to shape public conversations around education issues through their blog, podcast, policy reports, and opinion pieces published in the state’s news media. And their student-led evaluations of school climate and culture, research around the impacts of COVID-19 on learning from home, and legislative campaigns focused on school safety, college affordability, and student representation in school governance have gained national prominence.

As part of its growing civic learning portfolio, Citizens & Scholars (C&S) is carefully considering how best to prepare young people to be effective, lifelong citizens. A significant aspect of this effort includes uplifting the civic learning opportunities that exist beyond the classroom. Afterschool programs, community-based organizations, and youth-led community initiatives are effective places for young people to become well-informed, purposeful, and hopeful about the future. Unfortunately, there is a critical lack of resources for individuals and organizations that want to foster meaningful youth-led and intergenerational initiatives. In July 2021, C&S and KSVT partnered to build those resources and share the story of the Kentucky Student Voice Team. The report, “The Co-Creation Generation” presents the team’s organizational evolution and includes lessons learned along the way and good practices for other young people and organizations to apply in their own work.

“We believe every person has a role to play to create the future of our country, and that includes young people,” said Rajiv Vinnakota, CEO of Citizens & Scholars. “Involving youth in designing initiatives and programs that improve their community has an outsized impact on young peoples’ long-term understanding of civic knowledge, skills, and attitudes. When youth have a seat at the table, adults also gain a more nuanced, sophisticated understanding of issues facing youth, which creates a more inclusive and equitable approach to solving problems facing their communities.”

There is further opportunity to engage with this important work during an online event hosted by national non-profit Afterschool Alliance on December 1, 2021 from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. EST. The webinar, which will feature moderators and panelists from the Kentucky Student Voice Team, will explore their story, answer questions from attendees, and provide hands-on opportunities to discuss and practice some of the key principles and takeaways from the report. The webinar is free and open to youth and adults who are engaged and/or interested in this work. For more information, please go to: https://bit.ly/KSVTWebinar

The Kentucky Student Voice Team is a statewide organization of young people who are co-creating more just, democratic Kentucky schools & communities as research, policy & advocacy partners.

Institute for Citizens & Scholars

Institute for Citizens & Scholars

The Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation) is a 75-year-old organization that has played a significant role in shaping American higher education. Now, with an expanded mission, Citizens & Scholars prepares leaders and engages networks of people and organizations to meet urgent education challenges. The overarching goal is to shape an informed, productively engaged, and hopeful citizenry.