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[VIRTUAL] Free Speech Live!: Amplifying Youth Voices in the Political Process

On left: “Free Speech Live!: A biweekly virtual forum students. Amplifying Youth Voices in the Political Process, co-sponsored by Young Invincibles.” On right: image of hands joined together

An online forum hosted by PEN America as part of our biweekly student-centered evening workshop series, Free Speech Live!

When it comes to health care, higher education, and economic security, the Young Invincibles refuse to be silent. They’ve stood up for the rights of young people all over the nation by building a community based on social change and providing them with the necessary tools to speak out. Young Invincibles was founded by a group of students in the summer of 2009, motivated by the recognition that young people’s voices were not being heard in the debate over health care reform. In the years since, the organization has expanded from a group run out of a school cafeteria to a national organization with offices across the country making sure that youth perspectives are heard wherever decisions about their collective future are being made. How exactly though are the Young Invincibles providing young people with the knowledge and skills to better use their voices? What are the ripple effects of young adult leaders tackling systemic barriers in their communities?

Join PEN America as we tackle these questions in our latest Free Speech Live! forum featuring Melanie Kruvelis, the Young Invincibles’ New York-based Northeast senior manager of Policy and Advocacy. High school and college alumni of PEN America’s youth programs and other students are welcome to join.


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Melanie Kruvelis headshotMelanie Kruvelis is the Northeast senior manager of Policy and Advocacy for Young Invincibles’ New York office, where she conducts qualitative and quantitative research on issues impacting young adults in New York City and State, including college affordability, immigrant health, and young adult unemployment. Prior to joining Young Invincibles, Kruvelis used her background in policy research to affect change both locally and federally. As a policy associate with DC Appleseed, she worked on strengthening the early care and education workforce in the District of Columbia, working with educators and policymakers to implement systems change in D.C.’s early education landscape. She was also the 2016 Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellow in Women and Public Policy at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, where she focused on improving college accessibility for parenting students. Her research has been cited by the U.S. Department of Education and has been published by the United Nations Population Fund. She previously worked at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research and in public radio. Melanie received her BA from the University of Michigan in 2014, earning high honors for her thesis research on gender in constitutions. She enjoys podcasting, concerts, and everything bagels.

Nicholas Perez headshotNicholas “Niko” Perez is the manager of Free Expression and Education at PEN America. In this role, he advances PEN America’s efforts to catalyze a more informed, civic culture through free expression education for the rising generation and the general public, and supports advocacy, analysis, and outreach in the national debate around free speech and inclusion in higher education. Perez co-directs the Free Speech Advocacy Institute and hosts Free Speech Live!, a biweekly series of youth-oriented discussions focusing on contemporary issues related to free speech, open exchange, human rights, and democracy. Perez previously worked for the Columbia University Human Rights Advocates Program and consulted for the Human Rights Education and Training section at the United Nations. He holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in human rights and humanitarian policy and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in international politics. He also was a Global Leadership Fellow at Waseda University in Japan, a Model United Nations advisor at Mira Costa High School, and a forensics researcher for the Yahad-in Unum genocide research agency.

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