YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

  • How My Stepdad’s Move Prepared Me for College

    by Youth Radio Interns

    When my stepdad moved across the country, I was worried it would strain our family. Instead, it’s prepared me to move to college next year.

    Last fall, my stepdad got a job in Richmond, Virginia. I was afraid our lives would change drastically. He’d no longer be here during dinner, we wouldn’t hear him leaving the house for his weekend bike rides. And when would we make fun of his British accent?

    When I expressed these anxieties, my parents said, “It’s like he’s going to college. We’re sort of prepping for you leaving next year.”

    Since he left, we’ve seen him often. We spent two weeks on the East Coast over Christmas, and he’s come back for long weekends. He’s super present in our lives, and the time we spend together makes up for the distance.

    This experience has lifted some of my anxieties for college. The idea of being apart from my family creates this heavy feeling in my stomach. But I look at how my family has thrived, despite the distance, and I’m not so scared anymore. Just because I’ll be living away, doesn’t mean I’ll be alone.
    The post How My Stepdad’s Move Prepared Me for College appeared first on YR Media.

  • Five Tax Tips for Freelancers in the Gig Economy

    by Chaz H

    It’s 2019 — so you don’t have a job, you have JOBS. It’s April — time to file taxes. Here are five things you should know about freelancing, the gig economy and paying the tax man.
    The post Five Tax Tips for Freelancers in the Gig Economy appeared first on YR Media.

  • Family Separation Back In Spotlight Amid Homeland Security Shakeup

    by Noah Nelson

    Kirstjen Nielsen resigned from her position as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week after less than two years on the job.

    Nielsen faced heavy criticism during her tenure for the “zero-tolerance” family separation policy in April 2018 that split migrant children from their parents. Facing widespread public backlash, President Donald Trump reversed the policy two months later through an executive order.

    But the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General reported on January 17 of this year that separations began as early as June 2017 and thousands more families were split than once thought.

    YR Media spoke to Dan Galindo, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who is working on a class action lawsuit against the administration.

    “The latest in the lawsuit is the judge ordered last month that the government has to account for what could be thousands more separations than they previously reported,” Galindo said.

    With this increase in reported separations, the administration is now saying it may take up to two years to finish its reunification process, according to the ACLU. That’s a lot longer than the 30 days a U.S. District Court judge gave Trump in June 2018.

    “One to two years is obviously far too long,” Galindo said. “If the government can dedicate the kind of resources it dedicated to separating these families in the first place, it should be able to do what needs to be done to put them back together.”

    He told YR Media the discussion at the next court date on April 16 is likely to focus on the length of the government’s current reunification plan, which has not been approved yet.

    Galindo said the ACLU hopes the court will not accept the plan in its current state. “It certainly isn’t anything like what we say can be done, should be done, and has to be done.”

    So far, according to court records filed in February, approximately 2,700 children have been reunited with a guardian or have turned 18. But thousands remain separated.

    In defense of the delay, the government said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not collect data on family separations prior to April 2018, prolonging the time needed to reunite these children with their parents. That’s according to reports on the case.

    YR Media has reached out to the administration for comments on the delayed reunification timeline. But officials didn’t respond in time for our deadline.

    Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), a non-profit organization that works to ensure no child appears in court without legal representation, worries about the psychological impacts long-term separation will have on kids.

    “We are horrified at this because we have seen first-hand how the months of separation has traumatized children and their families,” Megan McKenna, the senior director of communications and community engagement at KIND, told YR Media. “We have worked with children who refused to speak, others who could only cry, and many who were clearly deeply affected in other ways by the separation, and will be for many years to come.”

    Nielsen’s exit from the DHS comes just two days after the administration argued it may need two years to put the families it split back together.

    Immigration advocacy and legal assistance groups blasted Nielsen’s work at the DHS.

    “Secretary Nielsen presided over a @DHSgov that showed a blatant disregard for our Constitution, civil rights, and human life. History will judge her,” the National Immigration Law Center tweeted following the announcement of her resignation.

    Democratic politicians also denounced Nielsen’s policies and expressed concern that the administration may take an even more extreme stance on immigration with her gone.

    “It is deeply alarming that the Trump Administration official who put children in cages is reportedly resigning because she is not extreme enough for the White House’s liking,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wrote in her statement.

    Reports say Nielsen was forced out of her post by officials within the Trump administration who want even tougher immigration policies at the DHS. 

    Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan will serve as acting DHS secretary until the president finds a long-term replacement.

    The shakeup of the administration’s immigration officials continues — even after Nielsen’s resignation — as Ronald Vitiello, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is stepping down, according to Politico.
    The post Family Separation Back In Spotlight Amid Homeland Security Shakeup appeared first on YR Media.

  • ‘Like Losing Another Home’: Oakland Closes My Middle School

    by Shawn Wen

    Roots International Academy will be the first Oakland school to close. One former student, Danny Lopez, reflects on what he learned as a student there.

    My two years at Roots International Academy were life changing. That’s the middle school I attended in East Oakland. I had moved from the Philippines to the Bay Area just two weeks before the first day of 7th grade.

    was scared walking into Roots. It seemed crazy to begin school right after
    moving to a new country. Other kids picked up on how disoriented I felt. They’d
    ask: “Do you know what BART is? Do you know what AC Transit is? How can you not
    know about BART?” I didn’t know anything.

    adults noticed. We sat in a small restorative justice circle. I had to explain
    that I was a brand new immigrant. Afterwards, I felt more comfortable and

    teacher pushed me to join clubs, go on field trips, and attend the book fair.
    Most importantly, she told me about the Gay Straight Alliance. In the
    Philippines, I attended a Catholic school. I was very much closeted. Through
    the Gay Straight Alliance, I learned about my sexuality. I found my community.

    Roots, so many people went out of their way to welcome me, to make me feel

    I’m a sophomore at Oakland Tech, a massive high school. I credit my time at
    Roots for teaching me how to talk with people and to branch out.

    Now, the Oakland Unified School District has announced that Roots will close. That’s like losing another home. I wonder, if I had not gone to Roots, would I be as open or as comfortable with who I am now? I look at my little brother. He won’t experience what I experienced — an incredible education for a recent immigrant.
    The post ‘Like Losing Another Home’: Oakland Closes My Middle School appeared first on YR Media.

  • The Elephant In My Room: An Illustrated Coming-Out Story

    by Elena

    In elementary school, I didn’t think about sexuality at all. I didn’t know what that word even meant. But that would change pretty soon.

    Because I was very new to all of the terms and labels, I thought I was a lot of different things. Was I straight, gay, bi? After a period of trial and error I finally found a way to identify myself. 

    I got my first cell phone at the end of 5th grade. With my own internet access, a new world opened. And in that world, I discovered the extensive realm of different sexualities and identities.

    And then, near the beginning of 6th grade I met a girl. We got along with each other pretty fast. We always ate lunch together and hung out all the time. Then one day, after school, she asked me a question: “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” And I said yes. Nothing really changed between us — we were only 6th graders! But we started to hold hands. It was my first relationship ever, so it was pretty exciting.

    For a while I didn’t really think about telling my parents about being bisexual, because I didn’t see why I should. I didn’t know if they would accept me. Looking back, I realize that was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever thought. See, both of my parents are queer. But I didn’t realize it at the time. When I was younger we didn’t really talk about it, and you can’t really just tell what people’s identities are by looking at them!

    And besides that, being an anxious preteen, I didn’t like to make a big deal over stuff. I wanted to just have my parents know without having to say anything. And funnily enough, that’s kind of what ended up happening. I started to get more involved with LGBTQ stuff, like going to Pride and joining the newly formed school GSA in 7th grade. As I did all of that, I just assumed they knew. And that was that.

    A lot of the time we think of coming out as a giant event, for better or worse. (I thought so back in 6th grade.) It’s like an elephant in the room. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Cisgender people don’t have to come out as cis and straight people don’t have to come out as straight. I didn’t come out either, I’m just living it.

    The post The Elephant In My Room: An Illustrated Coming-Out Story appeared first on YR Media.

  • Social Media Polling for a Sense of Self

    by Noah Nelson

    “Justina isn’t Justina without…” I type into the question box on my Instagram Stories. Now, I wait.

    The responses flooded in — some funny, some painfully accurate. Turns out, my nearly-40,000 followers have been noticing things about me I’m not even conscious of, like how I only wear bracelets on one arm, or my aversion to the word “stuff” (I guess I only ever say “things”). It was a shock to realize how much of my identity was on display and that absolute strangers were tracking my moves. It also felt like a lot of pressure. There were guesses that felt wildly incorrect, but enough people suggested them that I wondered: is that who I am?

    These thoughts are familiar. Like just about everyone, I spent my teenage years questioning who I was. Alas, I didn’t have polls at the time to ask other people for their input and then count up the results, so I just took the traditional existential crisis route and got bangs.

    Aubrey, who’s 16, doesn’t have the luxury of hiding from the internet. She maintains a brilliantly curated social presence, complete with existential captions and daily updates on her life. She uses polls almost-daily to ask her 1000-plus followers things like how their day is going or, in a subversive move, what they think she thinks of them. On that second question, she was surprised by the response.

    “I’ve learned that a lot of people actually think I don’t like them! In every instance, I make sure to let the person know I definitely do like them. Mainly it’s because I am such a quiet person,” she said.

    For those of us who put a lot of stake in our friendships, this kind of information can be jarring. But how important is it really?

    “These polling numbers can truly effect how you feel about the most mundane of decisions,” said clinical psychologist Danielle Ramo, who directs research at Hope Lab and is a part of the adjunct faculty at the University of California, San Francisco.

    Ramo told me the problem with the quantitative data we get from social media’s newest features is that it can elevate the importance of information that might not otherwise even register. Individuals can be more geared to care about responses to a poll that they would to information presented in a caption — or if they just hadn’t asked in the first place.

    Social stress has always been there, and Aubrey told me that both online and IRL, she feels pressure to be on-brand all the time. She sees herself as one of those incredibly rare teenage girls who can float between the cliques, but maintaining that balance is a 24/7 job.  It also involves soliciting a lot of opinions from people who are essentially strangers.

    If that sounds exhausting, that’s because it is — perhaps especially for girls. Researcher Jean Twenge noted in The Atlantic that 48 percent more girls said they often felt left out in 2015 than in 2010, compared with 27 percent more boys. Social media has made it possible to constantly access someone else’s life, compare it to every aspect of our own, and then ask why we weren’t invited. With the introduction of polling features, we have the ability to turn what were previously qualitative thoughts and feelings into solid numbers that are on display for the world.

    “Before social media, we didn’t have as much opportunity to think of our social identities in a quantified way,” Ramo told me. “Social media blew that on its head by putting our network in a quantified place.”

    Tracking likes and followers is old news — and as new data gathering features are rolled out on social media platforms, we are likely to find ourselves even more caught up in counting our way to a sense of self. But Ramo cautioned against seeing this shift as inherently negative. There isn’t a lot of research actually looking at the cause-and-effect relationship between social media and mental health, Ramo told me. Even in doing research for this piece, I found hundreds of articles trying to scare people off social media, backed by pseudo-science at worse and biased responses at best. The truth is that we just don’t know yet how this is shaping us.

    Kamrin Baker is a social media influencer who is currently working to educate young people about mental health and sex education — and she is one of the most “on-brand” people I know. She ticks off all the boxes: a consistent filter, an honest voice, question boxes soliciting thoughts and feelings from her audience, cute dogs. She and I have talked about how the internet shaped our lives, and I wondered how she felt about the measurement tools being integrated into our feeds.

    “I am comfortable with who I am, and my “brand” is kind of soaked in painful honesty and authenticity, so if something changed in my life or I stopped liking something, I think I’d tell people how and why I got to that conclusion and feel good about it,” Kami told me. “However, there have been times where I’ll just be sitting in my house, looking at my space, looking at my Instagram feed and thinking, ‘Is this really me?’ Like, am I really all cute and floral and positive and sunshiney?”

    I honestly feel this way more often than I’m comfortable with. I wonder if I’m giving up too much of who I am to people who don’t really know me, and how they feel about being offered that power. I posted something last week about a train of thought I’ve been having, out of the ordinary for my selfie/outfit/travel-littered feed, and then did a poll. “Do you guys want to see more posts like this, where I share what I’m thinking on/writing about?” The options were “yes” or “meh.”

    The yes crowd won out, but they weren’t all excited about it. I got a DM from a friend who was outraged that people had voted “no”… and that I had even asked. My thoughts were so valuable, she told me, why would I ask that?

    The answer is very simple: in a world where we have to constantly evolve to keep everyone’s attention, there is always going to be a struggle between “Who am I?” and “Who do you want me to be?”

    The post Social Media Polling for a Sense of Self appeared first on YR Media.

  • Thinking About Adulthood at Just 20 Years Old

    by Emiliano

    As a young person turning 21 soon, I should feel like a full-fledged adult, but I know I’m far from it.

    Seeing people achieve success when they’re young paints an unrealistic standard. It’s so hard to be successful these days so I’m gonna have to work really hard through my twenties to be self-sufficient and comfortable. That’s when I really will feel like an adult.

    At other points in my life, the milestones came faster and I felt ready for them.

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teenager so bad, so it was a big deal when I turned 13.

    When I turned 18, I was excited to be a voter. But it was Trump’s inauguration day –– a rude awakening for me. I felt even further away from the things I want to achieve.  

    Two years later, it’s not any better. While other young people in their 20s might be excited to be partying, I’m worried about what’s to come. I won’t really feel grown up til I’ve made it. I’d love a steady paycheck, and my own house. As Jennifer Garner taught me, I can’t wait to be 30, flirty, and thriving.   
    The post Thinking About Adulthood at Just 20 Years Old appeared first on YR Media.

  • For Young Voters, It’s About More Than Mueller

    by Noah Nelson

    Young voters are unlikely to change their opinions on President Donald Trump based on the results of the special counsel’s investigation into his involvement in Russian interference in our 2016 elections, according to students  and researchers who track the youth vote.

    According to the minimal information that’s been made public so far, Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation did not find evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. In his letter to congress, Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr, said he found insufficient evidence to establish that Trump had committed that offense. Before his nomination, Barr called the investigation into obstruction-of-justice “fatally misconceived.”

    “Regardless of what the report was going to find, I still feel like there are legitimate criticisms of Trump to be made, so it doesn’t affect how I’ll vote in 2020,” Hadeel Eltayeb, a New York University student, told YR Media.

    She thinks her peers will hold similar views.

    “Those who are fans of Trump are only going to feel vindicated by this, and those who aren’t are unlikely to change their minds because Russia isn’t the biggest reason people are opposed to him,” she said.

    Young Trump backers, like Georgetown student Bobby Vogel, are saying the same.

    “I was not surprised by the findings,” Vogel said. “But I read an article saying few voters said the investigation results would affect their opinions.”

    Researchers largely agree.

    A CNN Poll released on March 27 found only 13 percent of Americans say the Mueller report will affect their 2020 vote. Seven percent are more likely to support Trump based on the findings, whereas 6 percent are less likely to do so.

    “Unless we really see a big fight from the Dems and some sort of additional legal action or investigation that carries through closer to November 2020, I don’t think it will directly impact youth in their choices,” said Sarah Yerkes, a Carnegie Endowment Fellow who has studied youth voting patterns.

    What is likely to have an impact on young voters in 2020 is 2016 Russian interference more generally, even if Trump hasn’t been implicated.

    As of this writing, this is still very much a developing story, especially since members of Mueller’s team have gone public with criticisms of Barr’s handling of their investigation.

    Brandon Shi, a Columbia University student, said previous Russian involvement in U.S. elections will make him “more mindful about disinformation on social media.”

    Eighteen-year-old Thacher Smith, who will be casting his first vote in a presidential election in 2020, told YR Media, “Russian intervention certainly affects [my] vote in the 2020 election as it creates a greater sense of urgency to preserve the principles of our democracy.”

    But not all young people will feel that way, Yerkes believes.

    “This additional element of uncertainty, the Russian interference, will likely lead some young people to stay home in 2020,” she said.

    Abby Kiesa, the director of impact at CIRCLE — a Tufts University center that studies young voters and civic engagement — also thinks the interference may deter some young people from participating.

    “It doesn’t lend a lot of support for people who think the system doesn’t facilitate as much change as they want,” she said.

    But she also believes there are a lot of factors that go into people’s attitudes towards voting. The impact that Russian interference has on an individual young voter’s outlook “could be different depending on how a young person already views civic engagement or has participated themselves,” according to Kiesa.

    Looking beyond Russian interference as an issue, some young people are saying the record-setting diversity of the new Congress is what will bring them to the voting booth in 2020.

    “For the first time this year, I saw my ‘Palestinian-American-ness’ represented whole heartedly in American politics,” 19-year-old Anais Amer said. “I will vote in this coming 2020 election to make sure that this continues.”

    Voting-age Americans under the age of 40 — Gen Z and millennials — will make up nearly 40 percent of the electorate in 2020 according to Pew. Targeting them and winning their support will present a unique challenge to an aging field of candidates.
    The post For Young Voters, It’s About More Than Mueller appeared first on YR Media.

  • ‘It Feels More Real’ — Life on a Border the President Threatened to Close

    by Denise Tejada

    President Trump announced on Thursday that he won’t, in the immediate term, close the U.S.-Mexico border but instead will give Mexico a “one-year warning” before taking action. This message comes after Trump had taken to Twitter earlier to announce his frustration with Mexico’s failure to end illegal immigration.

    ….through their country and our Southern Border. Mexico has for many years made a fortune off of the U.S., far greater than Border Costs. If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States throug our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING…..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019

    ….the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week. This would be so easy for Mexico to do, but they just take our money and “talk.” Besides, we lose so much money with them, especially when you add in drug trafficking etc.), that the Border closing would be a good thing!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2019

    This isn’t the first time POTUS has made these types of threats. Last year in response to the migrant caravan, Trump initially threatened to close the southern border but instead sent thousands of troops there to strengthen security.

    To get a sense of how Trump’s latest threats are playing out in a border town, YR Media reached out to 24-year-old Estefania Castillo, whom we’d spoken to last year. Castillo lives in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and is a graduate student at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). She said it’s difficult to stay calm in light of the threats that feel more real and scarier to her this time around.

    Castillo’s school took the president’s most recent threats seriously. They issued two letters to students expressing their support and notifying them of resources like housing, free food and “virtual counseling and immigration advising for those who are unable to come to the campus.”

    Antonio Villasenor-Baca: When was that letter sent out and was it sent to the whole university or just to international students?

    Estefania Castillo: There were two letters sent out. There was one by [UTEP President] Dr. Natalicio on Monday [April 1st]. That [letter] was sent out to the entire university. It [said] that UTEP was going to try to support international students as much as possible, offer free housing and free meals if need be. Then the same day, like an hour or two later, we got an email from the Office of International Programs. It gave instructions for Mexican students about what to do. It gave a website [that tracks] bridge closures. It also gave you a hotline and an email to contact if students get stranded or can’t cross. They told us a list of documents that we should be carrying around 24/7 just to avoid any problems. And it also said to ‘exercise good judgment because you are guests of Homeland Security.’

    Excerpt from a letter from UTEP President to students, April 1 2019

    AVB:  What went through your mind when you read those emails?

    EC: The fact that the university sent an email made me really anxious and nervous because if [the school] sent an email, it must be something more real. It’s not just the president [of the United States] saying stuff, it actually may happen and the university is preparing for it. The fact that [UTEP] has places to stay, I mean it’s good to know just in case of emergencies, but It makes me worry. There are a lot of us that cross everyday, so I don’t think they have enough rooms for everyone. But it’s good that they have these free resources because obviously not everyone could afford to stay at a hotel or keep buying food. It’s nice to have the support of the university.  But at the end of the day it’s still scary.

    AVB: So this varies from last time?

    EC: This time it feels a lot more real for a few reasons. The last time it was just rumors here and there. The lines [at the border] got a little bit longer but not the way that it has now. Last time the express line was the same. Now, every morning I’ve been doing at least thirty minutes to cross. I mean that’s the express lane, that shouldn’t take you more than five minutes. The lines on the bridge are getting ridiculously long.The bridges, they closed off a lot of lanes because they have barbed wire and fences and there are CBP [Customs and Border Protection] officers everywhere. So it feels a lot more like they’re on high alert.

    AVB: Are you planning on taking up the offer for one of these rooms?

    EC: Fortunately, I have a lot of friends that live in El Paso and they have offered for me to stay there. I have one particular friend, she’s my best friend, who told me ‘You can stay here as long as you need.’ So I had already made arrangements. I’m leaving a bag of clothing with her, like essentials, a toothbrush, pajamas, some jeans and t-shirts just in case I get stuck here.

    The post ‘It Feels More Real’ — Life on a Border the President Threatened to Close appeared first on YR Media.

  • Playlist: Mid-Tempo Monsters

    by Jacob

    Explore the trippy world of heavy bass music and mid-tempo madness with these monster tracks from our favorite artists in this emerging subgenre. Fusing early 00’s electro and industrial techno sonics with trap and dubstep these producers are pioneering the new sound and style of bass music and we are HYPED for the future of this new genre.

    The post Playlist: Mid-Tempo Monsters appeared first on YR Media.