Change The Story

Supporting young people to achieve their career and life goals starts with centering their voices and experiences and understanding how they think and talk about their futures.
Artwork: Daniel Patrick
Language matters

Equitable Futures is focused on building more equitable pathways for young people by listening to them and reflecting how they see themselves and their future lives in the language we use.

Change the Story: How We Talk With & About Young People

Change the story refers to the important role that language and narrative play in advancing equity and enabling systems transformation. When centering the voices of young people in efforts to support them on educational and career pathways, a critical starting point involves understanding the language and narratives young people use when imagining and pursuing their goals for their lives. Change the story reflects the urgency of the need to shift both how we talk with young people and how we talk about young people. For example, we have an opportunity to build on research insights that tell us young people have often never heard of — or have a negative reaction to — the phrase “social capital.” By contrast, research tells us that young people respond warmly to and are excited about the potential of building connections. Similarly, young people react negatively to the word “job” on its own, but have positive associations with “career.”

Change the Story: Narrative Shift

Change the story also refers to the way narrative shift can drive systems change. For example, much of the discourse around why racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities persist in education and employment systems are deficit-oriented and imply that the groups of young people who experience no or little economic mobility are somehow to blame for their own lack of mobility. Narrative shifts can help reorient systems and services to instead focus on the agency and aspirations of Black and Latino young people, so that young people are encouraged to explore and achieve, rather than overcome and mitigate.
Students at UCLA Community School pass by one of several outdoor campus murals on their way to class.
Students at UCLA Community School pass by one of several outdoor campus murals on their way to class.