Community Engagement: Civic and Political

The engagement of youth in communities, through both formal and informal civic and political activity, is critical to the continuation of civil society and to values of social justice and equity. Understanding the ways in which young people are engaging in this manner is crucial for informing both schools and out-of-school settings, and for drawing on the capacities of our youth to help engage us in solving the issues that they will be facing in the coming decades.


In 2016, we began planning our annual conference, which was to focus on youth political and civic engagement. At the time, we had no idea our town would become a focal point in the battle for racial justice. We had no idea that Charlottesville would become a hashtag.

Behind that hashtag is a tale of two youths.
On the one hand, #Charlottesville is the powerful tale of a group of young people coming together to fight racism, bigotry, White Supremacy, and hatred on their campus. A story of young people who saw what was coming and put their physical bodies on the line in the name of social justice. #Charlottesville is also the tale of a group of young adults so disaffected and disengaged from our civil society, that they had been influenced by extremist groups to take up a mantle of hate. One of these young people was so enraged and emboldened that he took the life of another innocent young person.

So, what do we do from here? View conference video below and stay involved with Youth-Nex.

Youth-Nex Conference 2017

On Oct. 26-27 2017 the 6th Youth-Nex Conference, “Youth Act: Social Justice, Civic and Political Engagement,” provided a forum for educators, policy-makers, and practitioners across the country to focus on critical questions about a range of issues around youth civics activism and political engagement. The overall agenda of this conference remained constant in light of the events of August 11-12 in Charlottesville. The topics we had planned to cover remained critical in the aftermath. However, we added a special workshop described below and many panelists extended the focus of their talks as it directly related to the events in Charlottesville.

Agenda and speaker biographies
-Conference Chairs: Valerie Adams-Bass, Ph.D., Chauncey Smith, Ph.D., with Nancy Deutsch, Ph.D.


SPECIAL WORKSHOP WAS ADDED - Facilitated by Association of Black Psychologists - Student Circle (ABPSISC).
"What Now? A Critical Conversation about Community Healing, Black Youth Engagement, Sociopolitical Context, and Policy"
The workshop offered a healing space for all, yet focused on the importance of an Afrocentric approach, amplifying voices of Black students. So while also thinking about allies and collaboration (Jewish, LGBTQ, among others) we focused on the roles of Black college students in activism on their campus and in their communities. We also discussed strategies to engage in activism on campus, strategies to balance academic demands with social engagement, and we emphasized the importance of engaging in self-care. We aimed to provide a healing space centered on undoing the residual psychological effects of white terrorism and internalized oppression in Black communities; and to provide recommendations to turn the feelings, thoughts, and insights into policy and action steps. 
Click here for conference speaker bios.

Media Coverage


  • Nathaniel McLean-Nichols, 20-year-old Associate Program Coordinator at Boston's Center for Teen Empowerment. Also pictured, Chauncey Smith and Elan Hope.

  • Mark A. Bolden, Ph.D., Nkemka Anyiwo, and Charlayne Hayling-Williams, Ph.D., — Association of Black Psychologists - Student Circle (ABPSISC), with Valerie Adams-Bass.

  • A "Q & A" session followed each panel.

  • Elan Hope of North Carolina State University and Heang Ly, Director of Training, Center for Teen Empowerment

  • Several UVA classes sat in on panels.

  • Chauncey Smith, conference co-chair, with panelists Carrie Mays and Elan Hope.

  • One of the many of discussions before, during, and after the panels.

  • Student Activist, Zyahna Bryant, directed questions about inclusion to a speaker from a Charlottesville non profit foundation. She also presented at the "Call to Action."

  • Conference co-chair, Valerie Adams-Bass.

  • John Hunter (center), Executive Director World Peace Game Foundation, with India Fenner (right).

  • Youth-Nex Director, Nancy Deutsch

  • India Fenner and Stormy Kelsey of the Temple University Community Collaborative's POPPYN (Presenting our Perspective on Philly Youth News).

  • Karsten Kim, Curry Youth and Social Innovation (YSI) student, participates in a relationship-building exercise.

  • Sharif El-Mekki, Principal/Founder, Mastery Charter Shoemaker Campus. "Do the Work that Scares You."

  • Carrie Mays, 16, speaking on the Youth Political Engagement & Activism panel. Mays is a youth organizer for Boston's Center for Teen Empowerment.

  • Q & A - The six panels included International Framework, Youth Political Engagement and Activism, and the Role of Civics Education.

  • Starting 2nd from left: Kala Somerville, Laylan Salih-Computer Clubhouse/Fairfax County, Denise Taylor-Fairfax County Gov't , Lizzie Hoeppner-C4K, Tricia Howell-C4K

  • Jamila Walida Simon from Cornell University.

  • The International Framework Panel, Judith Torney-Purta, Roderick Watts, Tafadzwa Tivaringe, Aaron Azelton, Gasper Gjeluci, and Zin Min Thu.

  • Selfie explanatory! [Stay tuned for conference video & presenter slides, coming soon!]


  • Welcoming Remarks

    Nancy Deutsch, Youth-Nex Director; Robert Pianta, Dean, Curry School of Education; Conference Co-chairs: Valerie Adams-Bass, and Chauncey Smith.

  • Panel 1: Conference Overview

    Connie Flanagan, Heang Ly, Barbara Ferman, with Nancy Deutsch.

  • Panel 2: The Role of Civics Education

    Meg Heubeck, Diana Hess, John Hunter, with Rachel Wahl

  • Film Presentation: "Erasing Erasure"

    India Fenner, Stormy Kelsey from Temple University's Community Collaborative and POPPYN—Presenting our Perspective on Philly Youth News.

  • Panel 3: Youth Political Engagement & Activism

    Nathaniel McLean-Nichols, Carrie Mays, Elan Hope, with Chauncey Smith

  • Panel 4: International Framework

    Judith Torney-Purta, Roderick Watts, Tafadzwa Tivaringe, Aaron Azelton, Gasper Gjeluci, Zin Min Thu, with Nancy Deutsch

  • Call to Action #1

    Zyahna Bryant (Student Activist); Devin Willis (UVA Student, Black Student Alliance), with Chauncey Smith

  • Panel 5: Integrating Youth Civic Engagement

    Jen Danifo, Erin Hoopes, Stormy Kelsey, India Fenner, Sharif El-Mekki, with Valerie Adams-Bass

  • Panel 6: Policy Approaches-Youth Civic Engagement

    Lisa Diaz, Jack Drummond, Aidyn Mills, Kian Thornton, with Valerie Adams-Bass

  • Call to Action #2, Chauncey Smith