In a study of 71 youth activists in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Chicago most of them had an adult who encouraged them to think independently, helping them feel valued and respected. This support generated a strong sense of self and a sense of being different, feeling they could make a difference even though many adults assumed they weren’t capable. They described themselves as curious, restless, and feeling responsibility for their families and communities. Many were indignant about social injustices they observed, including racism and sexism. Some of them were able to involve their mothers in their political causes. Most of them were involved in leadership groups at school, but many were critical of schools as not listening to students or preparing them for their future. Some were viewed by school administration as troublemakers. They usually felt safer and more empowered in small community organizations, but not religious groups except in Rio.
Maria De Los Angeles Torres, Irene Rizzini, and Norma Del Rio. Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas. University of Illinois Press, 2013.