If there is something that you love to do, have a talent for, or are just passionate about, you may want to consider looking into one of the many youth special interest groups. While it might seem like a confusing term, a special interest group is a collection of individuals with a passion or 'special interest' in a given topic. Special interest groups are arranged in many different areas - everything from sports to politics - and can be a great way to network and make a difference.
What Is a Special Interest Group?
You may have heard the term special interest group on the news in relation to politics. This is where the term comes up most frequently. The role of these groups is to try to motivate a decision in a forum. While many special interest groups are dedicated to politics, there are also groups that try to influence other sectors. For example, there are numerous special interest groups that try to promote educational policy changes in particular school districts.
Also called advocacy groups, members of such a group can be motivated by a wide range of reasons from feeling morally propelled to help to being financially funded to do so. Advocacy groups primarily try to influence a decision by giving a voice to a topic they feel is under-represented. Common special interest groups gather around topics like:
- Education policies and reforms
- Animal rights
- Alternative forms of energy
- Voting rights
- Fair trade
- Helping troubled teens
- Drugs and other substances
- Gun control
While it might seem like teens who cannot vote might not have much of a role in special interest groups, quite the opposite is true. There is great demand for passionate teens looking to get together as part of a SIG to help represent a different demographic. Teens can make quite the difference!
How to Join Youth Special Interest Groups
If you're looking to get involved in youth special interest groups, congratulations! You're making the first move towards really getting your voice heard. A few ways to get involved include:
- Find a cause or issue that you are passionate about. Once you have done that, contact a special interest group in the sector and see if they have a youth division. Many of the larger issues have a separate division for teens to help in a powerful way.
- If that does not seem possible, try to find specific youth special interest groups for the area you are interested in. For example, teens interested in storytelling could join the Youth Special Interest Group for National Storytelling.
- Consider starting your own special interest group under the tutelage of an advisor. In addition to making a difference, the initiative and leadership that your role in the group would take looks great on resumes for jobs.
Are you looking for a few advocacy groups to contact or just to look at to get an idea of how a SIG functions? Here are a few groups dedicated to youth movement:
- The National Youth Advocacy Organization works to get teens interested in advocacy. This is also a great resource for finding a network you feel passionate about.
- Advocates for Youth tries to give every youth the same opportunity as every other youth.
A Final Thought
Getting involved might sound a bit difficult and time consuming but it doesn't have to be. SIG's don't need to get in the way of your GPA or teen job. Simply being a member of a special interest group can make a big difference. Don't think that you have to go to dozens of meeting every month or be on the phone every minute of your free time to be a youth advocate. All that is needed is the motivation to care. If you have that, an advocacy group can really utilize your passion!