Youth Organizing as a Developmental Context for African American and Latino Adolescents


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ben Kirshner, School of Education, University of Colorado, PO Box 249, Boulder, CO 80309; e-mail:


Research on adolescence has begun to recognize the centrality of ecological context in human development. Ecological approaches, however, need to pay greater attention to the political context of young people's lives, both in terms of how youth interpret their sociopolitical world and how they participate in changing it. Research on youth organizing among African American and Latino youth offers insights about these dimensions of sociopolitical development. Youth organizing enables young people growing up in difficult circumstances to identify the social origins of problems and take action to address those problems. Emerging research suggests that youth organizing has the potential to contribute to youth development, community development, and broader social movements. Youth organizing challenges social constructions of adolescents as apathetic or self-involved and offers an alternative to deficit-based orientations toward youth of color.