Kesmyre Smalls is a Senior at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas majoring in Legal Studies and Criminology and a 2021 College Intern at Workforce Matters.

How should youth and young adults be involved in helping to shape the public policies and investments that affect them?

Youth/young adults should be involved in the public to help reform and construct a strong and stable foundation for the future youth to build upon. This analysis shows us the importance of having trained young people that can be more active. Youth involvement can benefit and help organizations and their programs and also the youth. Programs that are developed in partnership with youth are most likely to be effective and beneficial at engaging in the population and therefore, to have a greater impact on the youth.

Involving youth as partners is a smart power-move in making decisions that affect them and increases the likelihood that decisions will be accepted without too much backslash, be well adopted, and become part of their everyday lives. For example, my college sent out surveys for students to voice their opinion about bettering the college for the fall semester. Empowering the youth to help identify and respond to communities helps them become empathetic and reflective individuals, setting them on a straight shot to have a great path to potentially continue this important work in their future path. The meaningful youth engagement viewpoints are viewed as equal partners with adults in the decision-making process. Programs that have activities that are “developed with youth, rather than for youth”. In this equal partnership, both adults and young adults need to be fully engaged and focused, stay open to change, learn to develop in how things should be done, and share a vision for the partnership.

What does the New Deal for Youth tell us about the workforce development priorities of young people?

The New Deal for Youth tells us about the workforce development priorities of young people by funding in youth development, education, workforce, and job training programs for middle and high school age, demand free college opportunities, the elimination of student debt, demand more resources for startups, entrepreneurship development, and access to financial capital, demand an end to rental discrimination, more affordable housing options, and demand an end to subminimum wages. I believe that the New Deal for Youth accurately reflects the perspective of most young people. “A New Deal for Youth envisions a world where the economy is designed to uplift all young people and abolish structural barriers, envision a world where young people have the opportunity to heal, develop, and are positioned to thrive, and re-envision what safety and justice are with the abolition of oppressive systems at the center.”

What lessons or new information could workforce development grantmakers take away from the New Deal economic justice demands that might help them to ensure their grants are meeting the needs of young people, including youth of color?

Workforce development grantmakers could take away from the New Deal economic justice demands that might help them to ensure their grants are meeting the needs of young people, including youth of color would be to let young people/ POC lead what is going on or what is being talked about. The only way to know what is going on with a specific group is to let them be a part of the discussion! “A New Deal for Youth is a youth-led, youth-centered effort advocating for the creation of new systems, policies, investments, and structures that reimagine life for young people in America.”

Should grantmakers be focused on helping to make college more affordable? How?

Yes, grantmakers should help make college more affordable. Grantmakers can help by explaining to college students, families, and people wanting to attend college what grants are and how to apply for them. The main issue I believe would be people not having the resources/ knowledge grantmakers. From there, they can change some of their qualifications like accepting middle-income families being eligible to get grants along with low-income families.