By Veronica Terriquez, Sociological Perspectives
Based on analyses of survey and semi-structured interview data gathered from low-income, racially diverse, and immigrant alumni members of grassroots youth organizing groups and from a comparison sample, findings suggest that adolescent activist groups foster high levels of civic and political participation in early adulthood. Similar to other public-oriented volunteer associations—such as student government—activist groups impart civic skills and experiences that facilitate later involvement. Yet activist groups may function as particularly intensive training grounds for future participation by developing members’ political consciousness and engaging them in political processes. In spite of operating within a neoliberal context that sometimes inhibits the political activity of nonprofits, contemporary grassroots youth organizing groups, somewhat like the 1960s’ civil rights groups decades earlier, can propel some young people toward ongoing engagement with social movements.