We teach young people to engage in responsible political discourse while becoming engaged citizens working to address injustice.

The ability to engage in reasonable dialogue and debate lies at the cornerstone of democracy. Yet today it increasingly feels as if Americans are unable to have dialogue on social issues without conversations devolving into partisan talking points or personal attacks.

YCD strives to provide workshops for teenagers that gives them tools to engage in the political process and build their political power as the voice of our future.

Recommended Videos

Robb Willer studies the forces that unite and divide us. As a social psychologist, he researches how moral values—typically a source of division—can also be used to bring people together. Willer shares compelling insights on how we might bridge the ideological divide and offers some intuitive advice on ways to be more persuasive when talking politics.

 

We get stronger, not weaker, by engaging with ideas and people we disagree with, says Zachary R. Wood. In an important talk about finding common ground, Wood makes the case that we can build empathy and gain understanding by engaging tactfully and thoughtfully with controversial ideas and unfamiliar perspectives. “Tuning out opposing viewpoints doesn’t make them go away,” Wood says. "To achieve progress in the face of adversity, we need a genuine commitment to gaining a deeper understanding of humanity."

 

Organizations Supporting Political Diversity and Student Activism

National Organizations

DoSomething.org is mobilizing young people in every US area code and in 131 countries across the globe, who sign up for a volunteer, social change, or civic action campaign to make real-world impact on a cause they care about.

Arizona

One Arizona works to improve the lives of Arizonans, especially people of color and young people, by building a culture of civic participation. The group focuses on voting rights, immigration, education and economic justice issues.

Colorado

Started by YCD alumni at Columbine High School, #MyLastShot is a student-created and student-led gun violence prevention campaign working to save lives with images of lives lost.

The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, working to protect, defend and extend the civil rights and civil liberties of all people in Colorado through litigation, education and advocacy. The group focuses its efforts on criminal justice, freedom of expression and religion, government transparency, immigrants' rights, LGBT equality, privacy and technology, racial justice, reproductive freedom, student and youth rights, voting rights, and women's rights.

Colorado Youth Congress organizes high school students across the state to build community, knowledge and solutions through policy and advocacy efforts supported by mentors.  Groups meet monthly to advance a shared agenda or goal toward policy changes.

The Eagle River Youth Coalition (ERYC) is a prevention organization serving youth and families in the Eagle River Valley. ERYC strives to increase youth leadership opportunities and raise the youth voice, aiming to build a safer, healthier environment where all young people thrive.

Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action, working across several of Colorado's Western counties, brings people together to build grassroots power through community organizing and leadership development. They believe that right now, today, we have the ability and opportunity to create a future where engaged local voices are leading communities across Western Colorado that are healthy, just and self-reliant.

Based in Aurora, YAASPA endeavors to build the self-efficacy of youth who desire to make change in our communities, pursue social science degrees, and social justice careers.

New Mexico

The New Mexico Dream Team is a  statewide network committed to create power for multigenerational, undocumented, LGBTQ+, and mixed status families towards liberation. Through trainings and leadership development, they work to engage community and allies in becoming leaders using an intersectional, gender, and racial justice lens—to develop and implement an organizing and advocacy infrastructure for policy change fighting to dismantle systematic oppression.

YCD Workshops on Politics and Diversity of Thought

Below is a sampling of workshops YCD has offered at prior conferences and events around the issues of politics and diversity of thought. Click on any workshop title to read more about the session, the presenter, and reviews from our participants.

A Day in the Life of an Undocumented Student

A group of students speaking.

What is it like to be an undocumented student living today in a divided America? A panel of college students will share stories of their hopes, fears and dreams in an effort to help conference participants understand the dilemma many undocumented students face today. They will also provide suggestions and resources on what we can do to provide a safe space for undocumented immigrants so that they can feel protected and empowered to continue their education or chosen work paths.

A Day in the Life of an Undocumented Student

A group of students speaking.

What is it like to be an undocumented student living today in a divided America? A panel of college students will share stories of their hopes, fears and dreams in an effort to help conference participants understand the dilemma many undocumented students face today. They will also provide suggestions and resources on what we can do to provide a safe space for undocumented immigrants so that they can feel protected and empowered to continue their education or chosen work paths.

A Holocaust Survivor Speaks

A Holocaust survivor speaks to a group of students.

A survivor of the Holocaust will share stories about living through a period of time where diversity and respect for others was at its lowest point in human history. Most importantly, participants will understand why we must never forget what happened in the Holocaust.

Challenging Linguistic Prejudice

Three teen girls talk in a small group.

What assumptions do you have about language diversity? Participants will be asked to reflect on how linguistic prejudice is still largely accepted in society (demonstrated with several current media examples) whereas other types of discrimination are not. The workshop will end with discussing real world consequences of linguistic prejudice, and how this form of prejudice impacts our lives today.

Disability, Advocacy, and Building Power

A student in a wheelchair watches as two other students write on a paper in the hallway.

Join two advocates from the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition in exploring how to become an advocate for disability rights or an ally for students with disabilities. We’ll explore the intersection of disability and white privilege. We will give you concrete ideas on how to disrupt disability oppression.

Diversity Without Borders: Crossing Political Boundaries

One student looks at another.

During this workshop we’ll discuss the reality that diversity in people and their beliefs are not a one-party issue. We’ll cover social issues, like LGBTQ rights, gun reform and immigration in today’s politics that cross political boundaries and intersect. We’ll highlight legislators on the Western Slope who sometimes vote against their party because their beliefs cross political divides. And after touching briefly on the power of stories to help us seek common ground, we’ll conduct an interactive workshop on intersectionality to help each of us gain a deeper understanding about why people who may seem so alike, can believe and act so vastly differently.

Fight for Your Rights: Examples of Youth-Led Change

How do we create change to help our communities? How can young people come together to fight for their rights?  In this workshop, we’ll look at examples of youth-led change by AJUA (Asociación de Jovenes Unidos en Acción), a youth-led immigrant rights and social justice advocacy organization in the Roaring Fork Valley.

In 2012, youth from AJUA led the effort to overturn a school district policy that allowed driver’s license checkpoints on school grounds.  These checkpoints were created with collaboration from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in an effort to find and deport undocumented students. After months of campaigns, AJUA obtained victory and was able to change the policy for the whole school district. AJUA’s hard work and dedication led to the group receiving the Youth Activist Award from the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union. Since then, AJUA has campaigned for the Colorado Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow (ASSET) bill, personal immigration campaigns, DACA rallies and other projects.

Hate Crimes? Youth Decide the Verdict

In this workshop lawyers will lead an interactive session on Colorado’s Hate Crimes Statute.  The lawyers will present a case involving criminal hate crimes. At the conclusion of the trial, small discussion groups of students will become “juries” to discuss the issues presented and, with the assistance of an adult facilitator, reach a verdict. The group will also discuss diversity in their community and the value of preventing the spread of racial slurs and hateful actions.

How to Spot Fake News

A group of teenagers huddle around a person looking something up on their phone.

Are you puzzled about telling real news from fake news? Join savvy researchers to learn the tricks and tools reference librarians use to evaluate the credibility of news stories.​ Then use your new skills to rate media sources on a journalistic reliability scale.

Join the Fight for Human Rights

Four high school students having a discussion.

This interactive workshop, presented by the Center on Human Rights Education, will raise social justice awareness of international human rights violations.  Participants will be able to identify common human rights abuses in their own communities and the world at large.  Possible solutions will be discussed to ensure that all humans are able to fight for their rights.

Know Your Rights

All people in the United States enjoy the same constitutional protections, regardless of nationality, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, disability and gender.

The best way to protect your rights is to know your rights. In this workshop, the ACLU of Colorado will share information on how to handle a police interaction to keep students safe and help de-escalate a tense encounter while not giving away their rights.

Left versus Right: Politics and Diversity

Corey Jones smiles and points his finger in front of a screen about left versus right.

Have you have ever had a debate, conversation or argument with someone with different political views? Maybe you feel uncomfortable sharing your views with others, for fear of being judged or criticized. If so, then you’ll want to attend this fun and interactive workshop to learn how to respectfully engage others in meaningful conversations about the issues that affect our world.

My Ethics versus Your Values

Effley Brooks addresses a room.

This interactive workshop will challenge students to explore their ethics and values that have been formed throughout their lives. They will face ethical dilemmas and practice communication techniques when faced with different thinking. There will be laughter!

Our Minds, Their Messages: Understanding the Media’s Impact

Students stand in a circle.

Did you know the average American spends three years of their life watching television commercials? Then add in on-line ads, billboards, magazine ads and messages from family and friends…What impact does this have on us? This interactive workshop will engage participants in a number of activities to discover which people and which bodies are valued by the media.  Attendees will leave with tools they can use for educating others in their schools, families and communities.

Social Justice? Intersectionality? Say What?

Students sit in a circle and discuss.

This workshop is an introduction to what social justice means and how to use intersectionality as a framework for understanding and dismantling forms of oppression. We’ll discuss how to accurately use terms; learn exactly what racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, etc. mean; and how -isms are not a two-way street. There will also be dialogue around the concept of ally-ship and what each of you can do to make a difference. There will be a lot of pictures, some videos, fun activities, and plenty of time to share.

Sustaining Youth Activism

Our democracy is broken, and young people are leading the fight to transform it. If we want to achieve equity in our lifetime, youth must know how to change the systems that we operate in. In this workshop we’ll be learning what it takes to create long lasting change in unjust systems and organizations.

Teaching Controversial Topics in the Classroom

Lori Mable leads a workshop on teaching controversial issues.

In an increasingly polarized society, teachers may be hesitant to address or bring controversial topics into their lesson plans for fear of retaliation by parents, school administrators or others.  Discussion of controversial topics in the classroom is necessary for students to explore and address the social issues in their worlds, as well as their schools, and to bring youth-generated solutions to these problems. This workshop provides strategies you can use to bring controversial subjects in your classroom while ensuring they are presented in an even-handed manner that will resonate with students, parents and administrators regardless of their political beliefs.

The Struggle at Standing Rock

A group of students standing in a circle.

Water is life. Few people can disagree that we need water resources to live. So why is there such an uproar in North Dakota about Native American land and water rights? What is the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline really about and why are there so many opinions about what is taking place in this protest? We will explore this topic and the many differing sides of this issue, to include how the First Nations have come to see their place in the scheme of things as the Protectors of the Land.

Theatre Games: Diversity of Perspectives

Ryan Foo works with students.

Diversity isn’t just about our upbringing, culture, and affluence—it’s also about our state of mind. Explore with Ryan Foo from the Black Actors Guild as you journey through improv games that are designed to push the very limits of your perspective and understanding. The workshop will help participants develop an understanding of perspective, relationship, and growth.

There is No Racism Problem in America

For the last 25 years Joe Chavez has consistently received excellent ratings from those who attended this workshop.  Here are some reactions:  “Freaking awesome!”  “What an eye-opening experience”  “Turned my life around”  You will hear a brutally honest presentation about racism, stereotypes, bullying, leadership, political correctness, family, education, beliefs and more.  Recommended for those who truly celebrate diversity.

Understanding Refugees 101

Led by the Director of Advocacy for the Immigrant and Refugee Center of Northern Colorado, students in this workshop will learn about the process of refugee resettlement into the United States and investigate questions of social, political, and economic integration of refugees. Questions are encouraged!

We Hold These Truths: How Diverse and Inclusive is Your US History Curriculum?

A workshop presenter leads a conversation.

US History classes across the country vary widely in the content, curriculum, and events they include and exclude. Often, it’s up to students and teachers to take initiative to teach and learn accurate, inclusive history courses in which our country’s history is not sugar-coated and people of all races and backgrounds are represented. In order to fully understand our present, students must gain a full understanding of our nation’s past, no matter how uncomfortable learning that history may be. This workshop, led by a history teachers and students, will help high school students stretch their learning beyond the textbook to make sense of our past and present. We will analyze our own history class experiences and then identify and develop plans for learning and teaching a more inclusive US History curriculum.

What Young Adults Can Do to Prevent Terrorism

Students will have the opportunity to consider and engage in conversation about extremist groups. Radicalization and violent extremism threats are growing across Colorado. Our hope is to help students have the tools to recognize groups who radicalize, how they can identify the threat, and learn about ways to support peers to open social concerns.

Youth Activism 101

Youth are not only our future, they are actively shaping our world today. Young people have a long history of being on the vanguard of social change movements. Our democracy is broken, and young people are leading the fight to transform it. If we want to achieve equity in our lifetime, youth must know how to change the corrupt and unjust systems that we already operate in. In this workshop we’ll be providing the proper tools and language to learn what it takes to create long lasting change in systems and organizations that are built on prejudice.