Attendees to NYRA's 2011 Annual Meeting

We are the nation’s largest organization fighting for youth rights.

The National Youth Rights Association, or NYRA, originally started when several young people met in an online discussion group that focused on youth rights. Through those discussions, it became clear that young people needed their own youth-run, advocacy group to address the issue of anti-youth ageism. NYRA (pronounced NYE-ruh) is 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation registered in the state of Maryland.

Meet our team:



Sebastian Barajas

Photo of Sebastian BarajasThroughout his school career, Sebastian Barajas failed repeatedly to internalize several of the key prejudices—such as ageism—that are required learning for young people. A recent graduate with a degree in classics from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, he has written and argued extensively in favor of youth rights. During the summer of 2016, he completed an internship with Dr. Robert Epstein, author of Teen 2.0: Saving Our Children and Families from the Torment of Adolescence, during which he studied how “adultness” is related to age.

Rebekah Villanti

Photo of Sebastian BarajasRebekah is an Oregon high school student who is extremely passionate about spreading awareness of the injustice against young people. In addition to her work at NYRA, she focused on youth medical rights and works with her local community to give a voice to those who lack a means of defense.

Outreach Coordinators

Shruthi Bharadwaj

Shruthi BharadwajShruthi has always been passionate about social justice and human rights, and her involvement with a NYRA has enabled her to work to secure one of the most fundamental of human rights for herself as her peers: the right to a voice. For too long, young people have been excluded American political narrative and have been silenced in schools. Shruthi, as one among the American youth herself, is proud to be doing something about it.

Jennifer Zhang

Photo of Jennifer ZhangJennifer is a high school student in Virginia looking to give youth more voice in politics. She gained interest in youth rights after witnessing the way that opinions of young people were often dismissed and overlooked, and is excited to work on correcting the ageism inherently embedded in society today.

Board of Directors

Neil Bhateja

Photo of Neil BhatejaAs an adolescent, Neil began developing an interest in the way society treats its youngest members. He realized that young people aren’t afforded rights that others consider basic, such as property ownership, freedom of movement, freedom from violence, and political representation. He recently worked on a ballot measure to lower the voting age to sixteen in San Francisco, through organizing, recruiting volunteers, and canvassing.

Brian Conner

Photo of Brian ConnerBrian’s interest in youth rights and self-directed education began his sophomore year of high school, when he saw several presentations on the student-led movements of the 60s. He started researching education reform, and came to the conclusion that the only way to create an education system that works for everyone is to give young people total control over their lives. He has led workshops on youth rights and given two TEDx talks: one on education reform and another on youth rights. He attends George Mason University and is starting a campaign to lower Virginia’s voting age to 16.

Mahsiah Imes

Photo of Mashiah ImesMahsiah Imes, 17, is a devout youth rights activist, public speaker and youth minister. He believes that the freedom and liberty that is awarded to adults in the U.S. Constitution should apply to young people as well. While his involvement with NYRA started when he was in seventh grade, his passion for youth rights and speaking up for his fellow peers was always there. He is a native of New Jersey where he worked on lowering the voting age before moving to North Carolina. There he continues to work on lowering the voting age and increasing student rights at his high school.

Alex Koroknay-Palicz

Photo of Alex Koroknay-PaliczAs a high school senior, Alex successfully led a campaign to change age discriminatory policies in several stores in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. He became involved with NYRA while attending American University and served as Executive Director from 2000-2012. During that time, he helped NYRA achieve several important important victories for youth rights at the local, state and federal level. He has be interviewed by CNN, Fox News, PBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today and written many articles on a variety of youth rights issues.

Elijah Manley

Photo of Elijah ManleyElijah Manley got his start in youth rights by challenging ageist policies at his school, where he successfully halted ageist dress code rules, as well as unconstitutional detention. He has also fought to lower the voting age to sixteen in Florida and to abolish curfew laws in Miami. Elijah also ran for President of the United States in 2016, directly challenging the age of candidacy stipulations in Article 2 of the Constitution. He is the founder and current President of the Continental Youth Assembly, a youth voice organization.

Margie Sanderson

Photo of Margie SandersonMargie Sanderson, 23, thinks kids are people. For that simple reason, Margie has been a youth rights advocate for as long as she can remember. From petitioning her school’s seating rules in grade 4 to working at a democratically run, age-mixed school and leading a youth rights discussion group for preteens in her adulthood, Margie is always looking for opportunities to further the rights of young people. She is also involved in the self-directed education movement as a member of the administrative team for Not Back to School Camp.

Anne Sheridan

Photo of Anne SheridanAnne’s interest in youth rights began in high school where she started a group to fight against her school’s dress codes, restrictive bathroom use, and censorship of a student-produced newspaper. Later she served as an administrator at two Sudbury schools, Diablo Valley and Leeway Sudbury, the latter of which she also co-founded. Additionally, she has worked with youth in the foster care and mental health systems, always advocating for the rights of young people.