Agents of Change: Youth Development & Social Justice Activism

Rachael Lee Ficke Clemons, University of Rhode Island


Young people from urban areas who identify as people of color and who navigate poverty are often perceived as being ‘at risk’ and in need of intervention to prevent behaviors such as delinquency and violence (Pittman, Irby, Tolman, Yohalem & Ferber, 2003; Ginwright, Cammarota, & Noguera, 2005). Furthermore, popular perceptions of youth1, are also solidified in public policy, which tends to position them as “criminals, and the cause of general civic problems” (Ginwright & Cammarota, 2002, p.82). Thus, deficit views of young people go beyond perceptions; they are also integrated in policies that impact the day to day lives of youth. ^ In response, a growing body of scholars, researchers and activists from the field of youth development (Ginwright & Cammarota, 2002; Ginwright & James, 2002; Ginwright, Cammarota, & Noguera, 2005) are shifting attention to understanding (1) individual youth and groups of young people in relation to political and economic systems of power, and (2) how young people challenge these systems (Harvey, 2006 Lipman, 2011; Anyon, 2014). ^ To understand how youth and their adult allies engage in resisting systematic social inequalities, I explored non-profit agencies that support Social Justice Youth Development (SJYD). Utilizing qualitative methods, I investigated how nine youth workers from three different non-profit organizations, located in one urban community, engaged youth in social justice activism. 1 In this dissertation, I use the term youth (sometimes referenced as young people) to reference people who are age 13 – 18, who identify as youth of color and who navigate poverty, and who live in urban communities. I use the term children to refer to all young people age 0 – 12, and the term adolescent to refer to all young people age 13 – 18.^

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Rachael Lee Ficke Clemons, "Agents of Change: Youth Development & Social Justice Activism" (2018). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI10748083.