Unintentional Consequences: Facing the Risks of Being a Youth Activist


  • Darren Lund University of Calgary
  • Rae Ann Van Beers University of Calgary




Students involved in social justice activist groups and activities encounter several potentially negative consequences in advocating for issues that are important to them. Through duoethnographic interviews with scholar-activists, former youth activists describe the barriers they experienced as socially engaged young people, including dealing with pushback from their cultural, school, and even activist communities. Without adult allies to help mentor them through these processes, the negative emotions associated with these encounters can lead youth to burn out and leave activism altogether. The findings of this study remind educators that they have an important role to play in providing meaningful activist training, apprenticeship opportunities, and supports for youth who are passionately engaged in progressive social and political action.

Keywords: social justice activism; youth; duoethnography; student movements

Author Biographies

Darren Lund, University of Calgary

Dr. Darren Lund is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, where his research examines social justice activism in schools and communities. Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, he earned a teaching degree and a
professional diploma from the University of Calgary, and has studied at the University of Victoria, University of Hawaii, and earned his PhD at the University of British Columbia.
A frequent invited expert on diversity and human rights issues, Darren is a regular keynote speaker, and he has presented at over 350 meetings and conferences. His research and opinions have been featured in hundreds of news stories and radio and
television broadcasts, and he has consulted to a wide range of programs and projects.

Rae Ann Van Beers, University of Calgary

Rae Ann Van Beers is a doctoral candidate in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, where her research focuses on student action groups and school-based research.