We, the UNICEF USA National Youth Council, represent more than 40,000 U.S. high school and college students who advocate for the world’s children. 89% of us will be voting in a presidential election for the first time in November, and every single one of our futures will be impacted by the outcome. Now more than ever, as our peers across the country continue to face the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and grapple with the consequences of generational racial injustice, it is critical that children and young people play a central role in restoring our communities in a more equitable, just and sustainable way.
In October 2019, we wrote to you asking you to present a “Vision for Children” in the United States and subsequently shared poll results showing that only one third of children in the U.S. feel included in the political process. Meanwhile, 81% think kids could help make America better if politicians worked more closely with them. We believe every child has the right to participate in decision-making processes that impact their lives and that it is the obligation of our leaders to take children’s needs and priorities into account.
As the election nears, we encourage you to publicly articulate your Vision for Children in the United States, including your plans to ensure that every child has an equitable start in life and opportunities to grow, learn, and contribute as they become the next generation of adults.
We also ask that you include children and young people in the policymaking process as you develop plans for the next four years. This could include inviting children and young people to participate in your party convention, requesting their input on policy proposals, and engaging with youth as you host campaign events across the country to discuss the challenges they face and better understand their perspectives.
If elected, we also request that you establish a White House Office on Children. Children in the U.S. face a range of challenges that, unfortunately, are disjointedly dealt with across a number of government departments and agencies. Through a White House Office on Children, services and resources could be more efficiently coordinated and delivered to children. Such an Office would also facilitate dialogue between a diverse group of youth and the Administration. Our hope for this office is to give children and young people a role in decision-making processes on the issues that will have lasting impact on our generation.
We look forward to hearing your Vision for Children and your plan to involve children and young people in the policy making process.
UNICEF USA National Youth Council
Cynthia Yue - The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Elise Phung - Plano East Senior High School, Richardson, TX
Emily Deng - Mayo High School, Rochester, MN
Henry Goldberg - Vanderbilt University, Dallas, TX
Kyle King - Cypress Bay High School, Weston, FL
Matthew Grady - South Mecklenburg High School, Charlotte, NC
Omer Baker - University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Ruthann Tesfaye - Virginia Commonwealth University, Burke, VA
Sara Ketabi - Glen A. Wilson High School, Hacienda Heights, CA
Sumaya Alfath - University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Fridley, MN
Kathryn Hemmer - New Trier Township High School, Glencoe, IL
UNICEF USA's National Youth Council is a group of high school and college students selected from UNICEF clubs in more than six hundred high schools and colleges around the country. The Council helps lead efforts to educate and engage youth around the country about issues affecting children, and UNICEF's global efforts to save and improve children's lives. UNICEF USA is a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children, supporting UNICEF's work around the world through fundraising, advocacy, and awareness-raising in the United States.