Young people are learning how to amplify their voices but too often their ideas or grievances fall on deaf ears. To get more elected officials to listen, students are leading local campaigns across the U.S. to lower the voting age to 16. How might extending voting rights change the way candidates for school boards and city council take seriously teen views? And how could these new voters influence local decisions from school lunch to summer youth jobs? Wendy Schaetzel Lesko is president of the Youth Activism Project and author of several books including, “Youth! The 26% Solution,” which she wrote with 19-year-old Emanuel Tsourounis. This national non-partisan clearinghouse located in Washington, D.C. seeks to maximize youth impact in public policy arenas from school boards, transit authority, law enforcement, parks, city council, state legislatures to Congress. Currently, Wendy is involved with youth-led campaigns across the country to stop the school-to-prison pipeline and to extend voting rights to 16-year-olds in municipal elections and local school boards. Together with 150 Maryland students, Wendy coordinates School Girls Unite, a youth-driven program with its sister organization in Mali, West Africa that advocates for gender equality in education.
Wendy has collaborated with hundreds of organizations to deepen youth engagement including the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, International Festival for Arts & Ideas, Jóvenes en Acción, Sugar Free Kids Maryland, Youth Empowered Solutions and the U.S. Department of State. Her expertise in youth-led advocacy and effective community action is enhanced by her prior professional experience as a community organizer with Cesar Chavez and a reporter covering the U.S. Congress. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at