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Hinojosa Argues for the Importance of Affirmative Language

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Feb 10, 2016

Jon Hinojosa, artistic/executive director of SAY Sí (San Antonio, TX) and National Guild trustee, published an article with ElevArte (Chicago, IL), arguing that youth development organizations across the country need to take seriously the role of language in shaping young peoples’ view of themselves and the world around them. As an example, he points to the term “at-risk” youth—a phrase that is common in the national lexicon but that is increasingly rejected by youth advocates.

“What do we find so harmful about the term ‘at-risk’? Well, for one, it instantly creates a separation of status. The term deepens the chasm between us and our youth that commonly already exists. When we serve our students, we don’t think of them in constant risk for danger, crime, violence, or death. We think of the opportunities they have and will have. We consider their natural resilience when confronted by challenges. And we show them that their futures can be bright and filled with success. The term ‘at-risk’ shows them the exact opposite. The truth is, we are all ‘at-risk’ in some way. Deeming one group as more ‘at-risk’ than another creates unnecessary obstacles for them.”

Hinojosa suggests “opportunity-youth,” which SAY Sí uses, or "at-promise" as more affirmative phrases. Ultimately, he argues that language is a way of framing the world. The more intentional our sector is about using language that affirms the promise of our youth, the more equipped youth will be to deliver on that promise.

Read the full article here.

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