Social Justice Youth Work: Actualizing Youth Rights


  • Monica McDaniel Augsburg College



This article explores models of prevention/intervention and positive youth development within the context of social justice. Both of these models seek to support young people, but they have vastly different methods and goals. The author argues that these models fall short of effectively supporting youth because they neglect to interrogate how power, privilege and oppressive forces shape a young person's identity and how that young person engages with society. Therefore, a new approach to working with youth is needed: a social justice youth work model. The author proposes this model as a means for youth and adults to work together to achieve a high quality of life in an equitable world. The paper outlines three steps to enact this approach with young people: 1. develop self-awareness within youth and adults; 2. build solidarity across differences; and 3. take action towards dismantling unjust systems. In order to do this work successfully, adults must first interrogate their own motivations for engaging in social justice work with youth.

Author Biography

Monica McDaniel, Augsburg College

Monica McDaniel has been a dedicated youth worker for the past fifteen years. She works in partnership with youth to facilitate action towards positive change in communities. She strives to do her due diligence by checking her priveleges and motivations in these endeavors. As mentioned in this article, Monica is a product of positive youth development programming in Minnesota. Once she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at Linfield College in Oregon, she returned to her youth work roots in Minnesota. She has worked in a variety of settings and organizations in rural, urban and suburban communities. Through her work, she has realized that young people have many similar needs, but she knows that they have differing experiences, particularly in regards to oppression and privilege. Monica is currently a graduate Social Work student at Augsburg College where she is exploring effective ways of facilitating dialogue and cross-cultural coalition building as a means towards enacting change in shared communities. Monica welcomes and invites others to engage with her in respectful dialogue about the ideas expressed in this work as it is meant to give readers pause, agitate their emotions and nudge them towards action in partnership with young people. 


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