Empowering young leaders to advance a just, sustainable future

Youth under age 30 make up over 40 percent of Texas’ population and are the most diverse generation in the state’s history. However, young Texans are deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change and pollution, and face increasing obstacles to opportunity, such as restrictions on reproductive rights that hinder access to contraception and abortion care. With support from the Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation, student-led groups and campus organizers are empowering young people in Texas to advocate for a more just, sustainable future.

Pizza at the PollsFor example, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity focuses on advancing reproductive justice by building a network of activists across campuses including Texas’ HBCUs and community colleges, offering training on reproductive and sexual health, and empowering young people to become civically active and advocate for their rights. Young Invincibles amplifies young adults’ voices in policymaking through initiatives like the Young Advocates Program, which recruits and trains young leaders to raise awareness and reshape narratives around civic engagement and reproductive rights. Deeds Not Words equips young activists across its 12 college and four high school chapters to become agents of change through leadership development, grassroots organizing and the power of creative expression, building skills to advocate for gender and racial justice at the local, state and federal levels.

Similarly, MOVE Texas, Jolt Initiative and Texas Freedom Network’s Texas Rising project are nurturing a new generation of environmental and climate justice leaders. MOVE leads climate justice initiatives across 20 campus chapters in Texas and is mobilizing youth to advance decarbonization and energy democracy. With a presence at 13 college campuses across Texas, Jolt trains young Latinos on issues impacting the Latino community, organizing strategies and voter engagement to advance policies that will mitigate climate change. With 24 campus chapters across the state, Texas Rising trains young people of color in organizing, voter mobilization and direct-action strategies and uses digital communications to lift the voices of youth most impacted by climate change.

According to Travis Evans, Young Invincibles’ Southern Regional Director, “It is critical for youth-led organizations to ensure that young adult voices are heard, listened to and incorporated into policy making.”