Youth Activism Project
The Youth Activism Project, founded in 1992, is an international non-partisan organization designed "to encourage young people to speak up and pursue lasting solutions to problems they care deeply about." Formerly called Activism 2000 Project, the organization provides a variety of resources, training, and advocacy to promote youth civic engagement around the world.
Wendy Schaetzel Lesko is the Executive Director of the Youth Activism Project. This nonprofit organization is governed by a Board of Directors, including Joanne Conelley, Dandio Coulibaly, Mira Fleming, Molara Obe, Milagros de Souza, Fata Karva, Anika Manzoor, and Jocelyn Matenje. The Board has always had at least one high school student with full voting rights.
This nonpartisan clearinghouse offers free information, resource-sharing and networking for young people who seek to pursue community change, such as changing a school board or city council policy. Trainings and consulting with adult organizations that seek to partner as equals with young people is another area of activity. Various publications include "Youth! The 26% Solution," "Girls Gone Activist: How to Change the World through Education," and "Catalyst! Successful Strategies to Empower Young Advocates."
The Youth Activism Project's flagship initiative is called School Girls Unite. This youth-driven initiative, founded in 2004, has 13 chapters in Washington, D.C. area middle and high schools, collaborating with another group of high school and university students in Mali called Les Filles Unies pour l'Education. Together these African and American activists advocate for gender equity and universal education. They raise donations and currently are sending 40 girls in Mali to school. Les Filles Unies makes regular trips to the schools to hold meetings with the village elders, teachers, parents and the younger students. This firsthand knowledge and youth-led evaluation increases their credibility when these young people—who are not yet old enough to vote—meet with government officials such as the Ministry of Education in Mali and Members of Congress. Ongoing participation with the Global Campaign for Education has seen an increase in the US government's assistance for basic education for children in developing countries from $400 million in 2005 to $740 million in 2008.
Following the success of the School Girls Unite model, the Youth Activism Project is launching a new global advocacy partnership between with Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland, US and Prerna Girls School in Lucknow, India.
The Youth Activism Project has been recognized by youth industry publications such as Youth Today, national organizations including the American Legacy Foundation and Points of Light Foundation, and from foundations including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, who reported that,
... Activism 2000 Project [is a] solid organization who has learned – and can teach others - what works in youth-adult partnerships.