FLY believes that youth are the experts of their own experience, and amplifying their voices is part of FLY’s DNA. FLY itself was founded upon the ideas and feedback provided by youth involved in the juvenile justice system hoping to prevent other young people from having the same fate. Twenty years later, we continue to honor this tradition by engaging and collaborating with young people as true partners in our work. 

FLY’s Youth Voice Initiative was launched in 2019 as a strategic plan designed to leverage young people’s stories and perspectives. It builds off a belief that FLY’s programs create opportunities for young people, which enable them to find their voice to narrate their own stories, which then allows them to create change in the public narrative of young people in the justice system. Our three main goals are systems change, organizational effectiveness, and leadership/professional development for our youth. 

Currently, FLY is utilizing youth voice as a catalyst for systems change work through initiatives such as the Youth Advisory Council, a partnership with the Santa Clara County Probation Department; California Justice Leaders, a partnership with Impact Justice to help reintegrate system-involved youth back into their communities; the Youth Voice Policy Fellowship, a professional development program for FLY alumni; and localized youth voice policy activation, which offers support given to provide civic engagement opportunities to current and former FLY program participants. 

In FLY’s IMAGINE 2030 strategic plan, our vision for the future of youth voice is that it is implemented not only throughout FLY, but within our collaborations with system partners and the community. Young people affected by the system will lead the process to elevate their voices, and create a more effective, humane, and just system for all youth.