Young people are an untapped resource

March 20, 2012

William S. Reese's excellent op-ed ("A welcome focus on global youth," March 9) about the Global Youth Jobs Alliance speaks to the powerful role young people can play when public policy leaders reserve a place for them at the policymaking table. This strategy rings true for Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP), a national and international non-profit organization that delivers cost-effective alternatives to the incarceration or other institutional placement of high-risk youth. YAP, with programs in 25 major cities, including Baltimore, achieves this by connecting caring advocates to work with young people from their communities. A key strategy is identifying and utilizing young people's strengths and assets and then empowering them to become engaged citizens in their communities.

Too often, we ignore young people if we believe they are "bad kids," yet the youth we work with have humbled us in their knowledge of their community and the creative plans for change that they develop. They also are a powerful lobby, as political leaders in state capitals and D.C. who have heard their testimony, can attest.

We believe, as do Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr. Reese, that all youth have a voice, and should have the opportunity to change and to lead a change movement.

Michael B. Marks, Timonium

The writer is chief development officer and national director of research for Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.

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