In recent years, society has encouraged America’s youth to incite positive change within our communities. Although it may be a bright idea, many find themselves asking how can this actually be accomplished? For nearly a year, over a dozen teen members of the Montana Youth Action (MTYA) Livingston chapter have been one of seven local chapters across Montana working to tackle pressing issues that affect our local communities as a whole. Chapter president and Park High Sophomore, Marina (Zoe) Bradley, speaks to the most recent challenges that Livingston’s chapter has embarked on in its short time as an organization. Bradley explains, “In Livingston specifically, we focus on environmental issues such as saving the bees, equality in race, gender, and sexuality, and the current poverty crisis we face.” Not only does Livingstons MTYA chapter take part in social and environmental issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, as well as gender and racial equality, members also participate in statewide community service projects. “…we are proud to assist in many statewide initiatives with other organizations, such as the annual Helena Women’s March and lobbying to create annual Indigenous People’s day…” Bradley said. Bradley also expresses to all of those considering, “MTYA is an open and accepting place. No matter your political beliefs, gender, sexuality, race, or any other factor, we welcome you with open arms! We only have two membership guidelines- you must be 18 or under, and you must live in Montana!”
MTYA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit network based in Montana with nearly 200 members statewide, and in association with Montana Amplify Youth (MTAY), as well as Montana Youth Action Coalition (MTYAC). According to the official MTYA website, “The goal of MTYA is to provide diverse civic engagement opportunities for Montana youth.”, as well as “…promote political understanding, [and] advocating for progress” Bradley also adds, “MTYA doesn’t just influence students to make a change, we teach them, and I believe that to be an important distinction. Anyone can inspire another person to make a change, but it takes a group like MTYA to take the time to show them how.” With that being said, one can clearly distinct that while the MTYA organization has only been integrated within Montana’s Secretary of State since October of 2019, members have proven to influence promising results in just a short 3 years.
One of MTYA’s most recent community projects is the MT Bitopic Mutual Aid Fundraiser. This organization uses mutual aid projects to incite Montana’s youth to take on the role of being more humane and compassionate towards others, as well as improve political conditions. They demonstrate this not simply by pressuring elected representatives in government, but by physically creating meaningful social relations that are far more sustainable. The Montana BIOPIC Mutual Aid Fund has donated nearly $80,000 throughout the past several years to BIOPIC community members all across the state for basic necessities, such as gas, clothing, food, etc. Advocates turned towards local businesses and community members to sell BIOPIC justice-inspired stickers at $3.00 per sticker and redistributed 100% of the profits made to the mutual aid initiative. Bradley goes into further detail explaining “Mutual aid is simply the sharing of resources and services for mutual benefit. It means helping each other succeed, and not allowing anyone to go hungry.”MTYA Livingston recently held its annual Mutual Aid Drive last week on March 23rd at Sacagawea Park, led by Advocacy Director, Mason.
The MTYA organization not only advocates for social reform but also places great importance on promoting political understanding. MTYA provides unbiased educational options for Montanas youth that start as young as the age of 5 all the way up to people in their early 20’s. This network works to inform our younger generation on state-wide issues, politics, governmental processes, and the true impact their advocacy efforts can have on MTYA’s overall goal. MTYA organizers promote political learning opportunities by hosting panels of guest speakers to present Legislative workshops, among several other civic education events. Bradley comments “ MTYA has the impact of making politics more accessible. With frequent workshops, roundtables, posts, and programs on how to lobby call elected officials, and even vote…” Advocacy Director and Student, Mason, describes this learning experience by stating, “I really enjoy that MTYA strives to let younger people be heard in political situations.” He closed by explaining “MTYA encourages many people to research laws coming into proactive, and the state of our government so that we can be more aware of the things happening around us.”
Along with providing political and social knowledge, MTYA is also equipping Montana’s teens with skills they will carry out into their future plans. Park High Sophomore and Vice-Chair, Fiona Shinn, claims “Being in MTYA has taught me diplomacy skills and different ways to advocate for causes.” To add, Bradley, comments once more, “The impact MTYA will have on my future is monumental. I’ve learned so many skills I’ll take with me to adult life and the workplace, as well as found a passion for graphic design. Not to mention how good it looks on college applications!” This organization has also allowed Bradley to take skills they have learned at MTYA into other advocacy opportunities in their life, such as the creation of GSA at Park High School, as well as their frequent partnership with Aspen MT. Mason, the Livingston Chapter Advocacy Director, expresses in an interview “Being in MTYA will allow me to pursue more jobs in the future that will help better the state of Montana.”
The process of becoming part of the MTYA family is simple and easy, with very little commitment unless potential members are interested in volunteering for additional duties. All those interested must fill out an official form at www.montanayouthaction.org/register, or talk to Chapter President Marina Bradley, who can assist in filling out the form for a smoother application process. All members meet the last Saturday of every month at 1:00 p.m. at the Cool Cafe on Main Street in Livingston. To become a staff member, one must be prepared for a far more sizable workload and demonstrate to leadership members that potential staff is prepared for the commitment. A leader will remain in contact if they feel that advocates possess these qualities. Those who are interested can gain more information at www.montanayouthaction.org or can follow them on Instagram @mtyouthaction. For a more personal approach, others can also contact Marina at (406)224-3339.