NYRA Mourns Loss of Corporal Punishment Opponent

Posted by on April 25th, 2016

Jordan Riak speaking at the 2006 NYRA Annual MeetingJordan Riak, founder of Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE) and long-time ally of NYRA in the campaign against corporal punishment died this week. Jordan Riak has devoted his life to stopping corporal punishment since 1974. He was a major force opposing the brutal practice both in the United States and in Australia, and almost single-handedly succeeded in getting corporal punishment banned in California schools. He spoke at the 2006 NYRA Annual Meeting and always kept NYRA supplied with his ubiquitous anti-spanking stickers.

PTAVE put out a booklet called “Plain Talk About Spanking” and distributed it widely. It has been recognized by many as one of the most persuasive and popular publications against hitting children. To honor Jordan Riak’s life and legacy, NYRA members are all urged to print out this booklet and distribute at your schools, workplaces and doctor’s offices.

Jordan Riak’s tireless campaign to stop corporal punishment is a model for us all and he will be truly missed by all of us concerned with the rights of young people.

Corporal punishment does for childhood what wife beating does for marriage.  There are laws against hitting your wife, hitting a guy on the street, even against hitting your dog.  But it's still perfectly legal in most of this country for teachers to hit our children. - Jordan Riak (1935-2016)

NYRA Advocates for #16toVote on Al Jazeera

Posted by on April 9th, 2016

On April 7, NYRA-Hudson County chapter president, Mahsiah Imes and NYRA President Alex Koroknay-Palicz appeared on Al Jazeera America with host Erika Pinzi to discuss lowering the voting age. Both were joined by other high school students on both sides of the issue. The segment appeared on the final 7 pm news hour for Al Jazeera America and provided a good opportunity to make the case for #16toVote.

Summer & Fall 2016 Fellowship Program

Posted by on February 4th, 2016

National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) Summer & Fall 2016 Fellowship Program
3 openings
Application deadline: February 29th, 2016
Download Fellowship Information in Word

Founded in 1998, NYRA is a national non-profit dedicated to fighting for the civil rights and liberties of young people. Based in the Washington, DC area, the organization challenges age discrimination against young people, and seeks to change attitudes and policies toward youth. NYRA aims to achieve its goals through educating people about youth rights, empowering young people to work on their own behalf in defense of their rights, and taking positive steps to lessen the burden of ageism. NYRA’s website is www.youthrights.org.

The Fellowship program is designed to provide a structured opportunity for young people interested in advancing youth rights to gain experience in advocacy, to work together, and to learn from each other and the NYRA mentors. NYRA will tailor which responsibilities are part of each Fellow’s portfolio based on the Fellow’s interest, experience and preferences. Each Fellow’s portfolio of responsibilities will include a mutually agreed upon sub-set of the following:

Research and Writing
– Update statistics and arguments within NYRA’s policy advocacy resources such as our Drinking Age FAQ, Voting Age Talking Points and Curfew FAQ.
– Research and summarize laws related to the rights of youth (for example see here).
– Expand and update NYRA’s library of pro-youth-rights studies, research papers, and information.
– Write blog posts for NYRA’s blog and Facebook page.
– Expand and update NYRA’s repository of news articles regarding youth rights.
– Write op-eds, letters to the editor, and press releases for developing issues.

– Develop and execute a strategy to further expand NYRA’s local chapter network, and to provide ongoing help for local chapters to support their campaigns and growth.
Conduct outreach and recruit new members both online and offline.
– Liaise with the media: including building and maintaining media lists of reporters; getting NYRA’s op-eds, letters to the editor, and press releases into the media;  contacting reporters who cover youth rights stories and encouraging them to interview NYRA; and helping to develop and/or serving as a media spokesperson for NYRA.
– Build and maintain NYRA’s online community of youth rights advocates by stimulating conversations, doing online outreach to build awareness and ensure a friendly, welcoming environment.
– Start a local NYRA chapter.
– Increase the reach of NYRA’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as expand NYRA’s reach into other social media platforms.

Qualifications: In keeping with NYRA’s philosophy, the Fellowship is open to all, irrespective of age. The Fellowship could be appropriate for current students and graduates of Middle School, High School, College, and/or Graduate Degree Programs. The following qualifications are required: Fellows must (i) be able to produce and write a well-crafted argument, (ii) must be able to do internet-based research to assemble, summarize, and synthesize arguments, statistics, and policies related to youth rights, (iii) understand and support NYRA’s philosophy and mission, and (iv) must be authorized to work in the U.S.. In addition, candidates should possess some of the following preferred qualifications: (v) public speaking skills; (vi) ability to professionally and effectively communicate by email and phone; (vii) skill at internet-based promotion of ideas and issues; (viii) experience with multimedia content creation; (ix) some experience as a youth leader or organizer; (x) previous experience advocating on behalf of youth rights in some way.

Duration and Hours: This Fellowship is designed as a six-month Fellowship, starting around June 2016, and ending in December 2016. During the summer months, Fellows are expected to work 20-40 hours per week for 8-12 weeks. During the fall, Fellows are expected to work 8-16 hours per week.

Location and supplies: The majority of Fellows’ work will be performed remotely, from a location of their choosing, as NYRA does not maintain a permanent office space. Supervision and collaboration will primarily be done over phone/skype/email. There are two exceptions to this.  A 3-day long team retreat / Fellow orientation will take place at the beginning of the summer, in the Washington, DC area.  And during the summer, workshops will take place every other Saturday at an office near Union Station metro station.   In-person attendance is required for the team retreat, and for the workshops, in-person attendance is preferred, but attendance by skype-video is also possible.  Fellows’ work will require use of a computer, a phone, and the internet, and Fellows must secure these on their own.

Supervision: Fellows will be mentored by and work under the supervision of NYRA’s President, Alex Koroknay-Palicz. Fellows are also expected to learn from each other. Supervision will occur via weekly one-on-one check-ins, as-needed, and through workshops that focus on building a particular skill and/or provide the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning and feedback.

Remuneration: NYRA is an all-volunteer organization, and the Fellowship is unpaid. However, Fellows will be provided with a $750 stipend intended to defray any expenses the Fellow incurs as a part of participation in this Fellowship.  

Application Instructions: The application deadline is February 29th, 2016. Please submit your application to apply@youthrights.org. Please place in the subject line “NYRAFellowship_2016” as well as your name. A complete application will contain a resume, a cover letter, a writing sample, and an “interest level” ranking of the various potential responsibilities. Please find more detail below.

Cover letter: The cover letter is the place where you communicate any additional information regarding your qualifications that is not adequately conveyed in the resume. Additionally, please be sure to include the following information: (i) Why are you interested in this Fellowship? How does it fit with your short- and long-term goals, and what are you hoping to gain from it?; (ii) What skills and experience do you bring to the table with respect to specific potential responsibilities?; (iii) What is your availability – including preferred start/end dates for the summer and fall periods, and number of hours you propose to work during each; (iv) Whether you would be located in DC, or working remotely, during each of summer and fall; (v) Which of NYRA’s ongoing campaigns are you most interested in? NYRA’s current campaigns are on lowering the voting age, lowering the drinking age, curfew? (vi) What are your thoughts on NYRA’s broader mission against ageism?

Writing Sample: The writing sample should highlight your ability to make a well-crafted argument. It can be something that you have written for class, or any other purpose. But it must be solely written by you (it cannot be co-authored). The ideal writing sample would be one that makes an argument for or against a particular policy / law that is intended to persuade the audience.

Interest Level Ranking: Our plan is to tailor each Fellow’s responsibilities to his or her preferences, to the extent possible. And to bring on a mix of Fellows that makes sense. To help us do this, please rank each potential responsibility in order of your preference. That is, please place a “1” next to the responsibility that you are most interested in, a “2” next to the one you are second most interested in, and so on, until you have given a rank to each of the potential responsibilities. Please do this with the responsibilities listed above under Research & Writing and Outreach. Or use this file and see the table at the end.

We Are Proud to Introduce NYRA-Hudson County!

Posted by on December 9th, 2015

NYRA-Hudson County chapter in NJ
NYRA’s newest chapter has just been formed in Hudson County, New Jersey! Founded by chapter president Mahsiah Imes this July, the chapter has been building up its membership and things are kicking into high gear now. Mahsiah and other chapter leaders circulated a survey to students at Chaplain Charles J. Watters School in Jersey City. Students at the school showed strong support for lowering the voting age and for changing the school policy related to phones in school. Their top priority this year will be on launching a #16toVote campaign in Jersey City.

NYRA-Hudson County has discussed lowering the voting age with the Jersey City Council and found some support. Stay tuned here for more details on how the campaign progresses. With high profile campaigns currently in progress in San Francisco & Washington, DC, we are hopeful that NYRA-Hudson County will lead the next big push for #16toVote.

The chapter isn’t just tackling the voting age however. The chapter has interest in creating a student defense program at their school. Inspired by the success of former chapter NYRA-Bergen County, Mahsiah has been in touch with former NYRA-Bergen County chapter president Chris Hardy who is advising the chapter on setting up a similar program to what he did years ago.

The chapter is also partnering with R&R Youth Services and Concerned Citizens to organize a toy drive for children in need and feed the homeless.

Please check out the NYRA-Hudson County website here.

Brand New Updated Voting Age Status Report

Posted by on December 4th, 2015

Voting Age status report

The movement to lower the voting age is growing all over the world, and as always, the best place to go for research, arguments and updates about that movement is the NYRA website. The Voting Age Status Report has been updated to include new developments and new campaigns working on lowering the voting age. All properly cited for you to find out more information.

With the #16toVote movement becoming more mainstream it is helpful to have a central place to go for updates on the movement while not losing site of the many campaigns that over the years that brought us to this point. If you think the movement began with Takoma Park, you haven’t been paying attention. Please share this page widely to show everyone the full breadth of the international campaign to lower the voting age.

#16toVote Bill Introduced in DC!

Posted by on November 3rd, 2015

#16toVote DC 2
It is happening!  District of Columbia Councilmembers Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau and David Grosso today are introducing a bill today to lower the voting age to 16 in DC elections.  Washington, DC would be the largest city in the nation to have a 16-year-old voting age.  NYRA has been working with local activist Michelle Blackwell from Our C.A.P.S. who has been leading the effort to get this bill introduced.  She has met with several DC Councilmembers in the last month, many of whom sound supportive.  After meeting with Councilmember Charles Allen, he was so impressed with the arguments in favor of lowering the voting age that his office started working on drafting a bill immediately.  This is a statement from his office regarding the merits of lowering the voting age:

Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015

The age of 16 has an important place in our society. It is an age where we remove, generally, the mantle of childhood and instead apply many expectations of adulthood. We do this by conveying a whole spectrum of rights and duties at the time a person turns 16 years of age. For example, at 16, an individual may:

  • Drive a car;
  • Be employed, and if employed, pay taxes on those earnings;
  • Receive service of process in court matters;
  • File a petition for civil protection on his or her own behalf;
  • Consent to certain medical treatment without approval of a parent or guardian;
  • Serve as an election poll worker; and
  • Be charged as an adult in certain criminal cases.

These are not frivolous rights or obligations – in fact, many involve weighty decisions we give a 16-year old the responsibility to make for themselves. How can we then say that a 16-year-old is incapable of casting a vote for an elected official or an initiative? Incapable of participating in the very government that believes they are capable of paying taxes or standing for themselves in court?

As a government, we are holding 16-year-old youth accountable for wide array of decisions and responsibilities, but we do not grant them a meaningful voice in these issues. The Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015 aims to do just that – by lowering the voting age to 16, we can bring our young people directly into the political process and, hopefully, create lifelong voters.

We hear frequently that young people are disconnected from their government and their city. This is one way to help connect them and by allowing them to engage in their government – a government and history they are actively learning about in school – we have a better chance of keeping them engaging in this civic responsibility as they get older.

The District would not be alone in lowering the voting age to 16. From several democratic nations to our neighbor Takoma Park, 16 year olds are participating in the political process. In the District, we stand firmly behind the claim of “No taxation without representation” and this should apply to our 16 and 17-year-old residents as well. The question should not be why do this, but rather, why not?

NYRA is VERY excited about this bill and plan to do everything we can to see it get passed.  If you live in the District of Columbia, please write your councilmember and tell them to support the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2015!

Campaign to Lower DC Voting Age Begun!

Posted by on October 19th, 2015

The District of Columbia is the newest front in the ongoing campaign to lower the voting age to 16.  NYRA partner, OUR C.A.P.S. (Community Alliance for Peaceful Streets), kicked off their campaign to lower the DC voting age on Friday.  Armed with stats and arguments provided by NYRA, this new group is bringing this issue to the DC City Council and young people throughout the District.

Our CAPS was initially founded as a community group seeking to address the uptick in violent crime DC has experienced this year.  After attending various public forums seeking to address DC’s unsafe streets Our CAPS founder, Michelle Blackwell realized both that it was young people who had the most direct experience with the threat of crime in their neighborhoods and had the best ideas for addressing it.  Yet instead of seeing these teens as experts on this issue with innovative ideas for fixing the problem, leaders largely ignored or patronized them.

Frustrated by this treatment of passionate, intelligent youth, Michelle sought help and came across NYRA’s campaign to lower the voting age.  She read through our Top 10 Reasons to Lower the Voting Age and realized that the only way young people will be taken seriously, the only way they will be heard is to lower the voting age.  The Our CAPS campaign is an exciting new development for the issue and one that NYRA looks forward to bringing more updates on.  Nearby towns of Takoma Park and Hyattsville have both lowered their voting age to 16, and proven that this reform is good for young people, good for voter turn out and good for democracy.  Washington, DC could be the next domino to fall.  And it is a big one.

All DC license plates say Taxation Without Representation.  While DC may not yet have voting members of Congress, by lowering the voting age to 16 they can help rectify some of that injustice.

Be sure to follow Our CAPS on:

Takoma Park Victory!!

Posted by on May 14th, 2013

For years, NYRA has worked to find one state or one community that would finally allow people younger than 18 to vote. On May 13, 2013 we achieved a breakthrough: Takoma Park, Maryland voted to be the first US city with a voting age of 16.

“Other nations, from Argentina to Austria, have allowed 16-year-olds to vote, but Takoma Park is the first city in the United States to achieve this level of democracy,” said NYRA Executive Director Bill Bystricky. “Takoma Park is leading the way to a brighter and more democratic future.”

When Takoma Park city council members Tim Male and Seth Grimes first introduced their proposal, they faced skepticism from other council members. But when local residents, many still in high school, turned out at city council meetings to voice their views, resistance melted and the council voted 6-1 in favor of the lower voting age, and the one member who voted against says he will work to help 16-year-olds get more involved in governance so they will be well-informed and ready to cast meaningful votes.

Will other cities soon follow in expanding democracy?

“Yes,” says Bystricky. “NYRA is already working with activists in Lowell, MA to lower their voting age, and other cities will soon follow. Now that Takoma Park has led the way, it will be easier to win this level of democracy across the nation as Americans grow more accustomed to 16-year-old voters.”

A big Thank You to every NYRA activist who helped make this happen, not just the activists who spoke in Takoma Park, but those who for years kept the fires burning and the idea spreading, from the heroes in NYRA-Berkeley who got the entire state of California debating a Votes for Youth proposal, to the quiet radicals who keep the discussion going in online forums. It took years of hard work for the idea of Votes for Youth to achieve this level of acceptance.

From here, the work will be easier with momentum pushing us forward, but the work still needs to be done. Let’s spread this victory across America.

Votes for Youth in Takoma Park

Posted by on March 29th, 2013

Votes for Youth


Update: We’re winning.


NYRA has long fought for a lower voting age, and we may soon have a breakthrough right on Washington, DC’s border.

Takoma Park, Maryland is now considering a proposal to let 16-year-olds vote in local elections. If this succeeds, we may soon see other cites lose their fear of enfranchising youth. NYRA has already written a letter to the city council in support of this proposal, but there is more work to be done.

On April 8 at 7:30 PM, the Takoma Park city council will hold a public meeting on the issue. NYRA Executive Director Bill Bystricky will speak. There’s room for others to help as well.


What You Can Do

If you live in Takoma Park, show up to the meeting and speak. You’ll get three minutes to make your case, and the city council is eager to hear from all the residents they are expected to represent.

If you live elsewhere, come anyway. Just sitting in the audience and showing your support can help.


The Hearing:

April 8 at 7:30 PM
Takoma Park Community Center
7500 Maple Ave.
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912

What NYRA said in DC

Posted by on October 13th, 2012

In our nation’s capital, youth rights activists came from as far away as Long Island to speak out for a lower voting age and an end to voter ID laws.

“America was founded on the idea that those who must obey the laws are entitled to a say in what the laws are,” declared NYRA Executive Director Bill Bystricky. “That’s what Thomas Jefferson meant by ‘consent of the governed.’ While no nation has ever been perfect in honoring that democratic ideal, America has a proud history of always moving closer to that goal, enfranchising new groups of Americans and expanding democracy. Today we are here to help move America another step forward.”

The rally has now ended, but the fight for voting rights marches on, and you can still be part of it. How? By organizing a local rally in your area and by sending a donation to help us make such events possible.

To organize a local Votes for Youth rally, just choose a day, find a few volunteers willing to help, publicize the date and time, and alert the media with some news releases. Send an email about it to NYRA’s Executive Director, and he will personally publicize it to NYRA-members in your area.

To send a contribution, go here.

NYRA’s mission centers on challenging age discrimination against young people, both in law and in attitudes and supporting the basic freedoms afforded to young Americans in the Bill of Rights.