NYRA Freedom

ISSN 1933-5229
Volume 8, Issue 11
December 15, 2008
Editors: Justin Graham and Lexi Johnson

Table of Contents

– Introduction
– A Pro-Youth Flood of Activity in New York City
– Student Rights Union Continues to Make Waves
– Texas College Chapter Gets Off the Ground
– NYRA Looking for New Interns
– Take a Survey for NYRA
– Newt Gingrich Advocates the End of Adolescence
– News from the Web
– Conclusion


So much great activity has been going on all over the country for the past few months that it’s difficult to keep track of it all. Just this month, we have a promising new chapter at a Texas university that plans to get right to work. Chapters in New York City and Indiana have been very busy with youth advocacy. With the new semester comes a new batch of interns for NYRA, expanded to include new ways of helping the organization advance the cause, and we have two new short surveys for members to take that will really help us and a partner organization out. And, to top it all off, Newt Gingrich, a major political figure, has come out with a powerful article arguing what many youth rights advocates have been saying all along: that adolescence is a failed social experiment that we should put an end to. More successes will surely follow as we ring in the new year.

A Pro-Youth Flood of Activity in New York City

As 2008 draws to a close, the dedicated activists in NYRA’s New York City chapter are working hard to finish the year and start out 2009 with a bang for youth rights. Several major projects are in the works, including some ambitious plans for the near future that could generate a great deal of attention, funds and action for the cause.
NYRA-NYC continues to work on its youth video project. As the chapter continues to network with other youth-led and youth-oriented organizations throughout the city, they plan on using their video cameras to document the challenges and problems facing youth and the pro-youth solutions that we advocate, and they’ve hired a video intern to help with the task. NYRA Director and NYRA-NYC activist Jason Kende plans to submit a proposal for Democracy 2.0, a January summit in Philadelphia held by NYRA partner Mobilize. The proposal, “Civics 2.0,” will focus on youth voting and civic participation and center around using video to mobilize youth.
The chapter also plans to use video to help organize action on a major student rights issue at Stuyvesant High School, one of the most competitive high schools in the country. The New York City school system prohibits students from bringing electronics, including cell phones, to school, and in an attempt to enforce this policy Stuyvesant is installing metal detectors to catch students with cell phones. The metal detectors will be installed in late January. NYRA-NYC plans to interview students outside the school about their views, using the video to mobilize student action at Stuyvesant and throughout the NYC school system. Other plans include distributing a new youth rights pamphlet at Stuyvesant and other schools, helping connect students to other youth organizations in the city, such as Future Voters of America, and distributing a variant design of “Bong Hits 4 Jesus,” featuring overtly political language, to assert and defend the right of students to free expression.
In addition to student rights issues, the chapter is progressing on other fronts as well. NYRA-NYC member Ana Hevesi is in the early stages of planning another public debate among experts about the legal drinking age, similar to the one held recently at Manhattanville College, collaborating with Manhattanville College president Richard Berman. Plans are to hold the debate, to feature prominent experts in the field, on a college campus in New York City this coming spring. The chapter plans to focus recruiting efforts on city campuses in the months before the debate and to lobby area colleges to sign the Amethyst Initiative, Choose Responsibility’s statement of support for a public debate on the drinking age.
NYRA’s activists in New York City are generating a flurry of youth rights activity, working with young people, youth organizations and NYRA partners to bring about real change for youth. With the determination and passion for the cause demonstrated by NYRA-NYC, there is no doubt that they will succeed.

Student Rights Union Continues to Make Waves

The Zionsville Student Rights Union, NYRA’s affiliate in central Indiana, continues to be an effective voice for youth. The ZSRU’s most recent victory came just this month when they successfully worked with their high school administration to change the structure of final exams starting in 2009, after a long cooperative process involving months of negotiation.
Successes such as these demonstrate that it is possible to form cooperative alliances with schools and other institutions in order to enhance youth voice and youth participation. Because of these successes the ZSRU has been asked by John Loflin, senior fellow of education and youth issues at the Black & Latino Policy Institute, to take the lead on a statewide initiative to gain support for “democratic education,” where young people are actively involved in shaping their own educational experience. ZSRU leadership plans to meet with Loflin, an expert on democratic education and a member of the Democratic Education Consortium, and leaders from the Student Alliance for Education, an organization founded by urban Indianapolis students, this week to form a strategy to move the effort forward.

Texas College Chapter Gets Off the Ground

NYRA’s newest chapter has been approved at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the new chapter’s founder, Lindsay Coley, is eager to get started. The chapter has ambitious goals, planning to hold a debate on the drinking age on campus during the spring semester. Last month, NYRA Executive Director Alex Koroknay-Palicz made our case very successfully in a similar debate at Manhattanville College, but this would be the first public debate on the issue, along with the planned debate in New York City, hosted by a NYRA chapter. NYRA-UTSA also plans to campaign for the University of Texas system to endorse the Amethyst Initiative, the effective push by NYRA ally Choose Responsibility to open public debate about the legal drinking age, and the chapter hopes to win a lower drinking age within five years.
In addition to the drinking age, the new chapter also plans to work for student rights, both in colleges and for younger students, and to strongly oppose discriminatory youth curfews. Coley and her chapter recognize that, even though they as college students are no longer directly affected by unjust laws that target only legal minors, “the last thing we should do is ignore those problems as we once faced them, it would be wrong to ignore them.”
NYRA-UTSA will have help on campus as they work for youth rights. A co-founder of the chapter is starting a chapter of another organization that partners with NYRA, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and they plan to work with the campus ACLU chapter as well.
Look for more news out of San Antonio as this promising new chapter moves forward.

NYRA Looking for New Interns

With the spring semester approaching, NYRA is looking for interns to help us advance the cause of youth in our Washington, DC office. If you’re looking for an opportunity to work as an intern during the upcoming spring semester, and are interested in helping NYRA make progress for youth rights, email us at nyra at youthrights.org for more information.
Also, NYRA is looking for interns to work over the Internet in various ways for youth rights. If you have a talent for or interest in web design, video editing and production, chapter formation and organizational expansion, research and writing, or fundraising and budgeting, and a passion for youth rights, email nyra at youthrights.org to find out how you can help.

Take a Survey for NYRA

There are two important surveys available for NYRA members and supporters to take. These surveys will help NYRA improve as an organization and help one of our partners define the issues that are important to young people as a generation. Each survey only takes a few minutes, so be sure to take the time to complete them.
NYRA has released its membership survey to gauge how to better earn the support of our members. The survey is completely anonymous, so please be honest in assessing the organization and how you would like to see us improve. The survey also contains an opportunity to provide feedback about our website.
You can find the NYRA membership survey here:
In addition, NYRA’s partner Mobilize.org has released its annual survey of the Millennial generation (anyone born between 1978 and 2008) as part of its Democracy 2.0 project. This presents an excellent opportunity to let Mobilize know what issues and causes are important to young people. If you were born in 1978 or later, please complete this survey; it doesn’t take long. If you were born before 1978, please pass this on to Millennials that you know.
You can complete Mobilize’s survey here:

Newt Gingrich Advocates the End of Adolescence

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has spoken out in favor of abolishing the awkward period of life that we call adolescence and integrating young people early into the adult world. In an article in BusinessWeek magazine, Gingrich claims that adolescence is not working, that it is a failed social experiment. Using convincing arguments and pointing out that adolescence is a relatively new social experiment developed in the 19th century, Gingrich advocates a return to an earlier model of youth as young adults instead of “old children,” which he argues was more successful. Among the ideas proposed by Gingrich are developing accelerated educational curricula on the Internet available to all Americans of every age, incentivizing academic achievement by paying students for their valuable work and providing automatic college scholarships to students who graduate high school early.
Earlier this year Ralph Nader spoke out for a lower voting age. Newt Gingrich’s powerful article is a welcome argument from a conservative viewpoint.
Read the article here:

News from the Web

Maryland Takes On Driving Age Debate
New Device Prevents Driving While Using Cell Phone
Student Who Created Facebook Group Critical of Teacher Sues High School Over Suspension
Teens Sentenced To Spend New Year’s Eve In Court
Search of 32 graves ordered at Florida reform school
Crackdown on youth lottery sales coming: treasurer
State laws fail to curb teens’ indoor tanning
Bill: Ban Sale of Some Cold Medicines To Minors
Even Worse for Teens
Teen gets college degree in just 2 years
Fla. Mom Arrested Over Student Skipping Class
Why speed cameras hit over-60s hardest
Roanoke County school board on the sharp end of a student’s haircut suit
Teen drivers get bad rap
College president fights campus binge-drinking
Lawmakers pushing restrictions for youth drivers
Newt Gingrich: Let’s End Adolescence
Halloween drawing scares teacher, gets student in hot water
County treasurer defeated by ‘teenybopper’ student
Locals React To Lowering Gambling Age


Much progress has been made over the past month for the cause of youth, and thanks to the determined activity of committed youth rights activists around the country, more exciting news is sure to come in 2009. Whether or not you live in a major hub for youth rights activity such as New York City, Southeast Florida or central Indiana, there are ways for you to help keep this pro-youth trend going, by giving your time to a local chapter or starting your own, speaking out against ageism and discrimination in your community, standing up for your rights in school, distributing NYRA pamphlets and other literature or donating to NYRA. You can help NYRA make a difference.
Happy Holidays from all of us at the National Youth Rights Association!