Youth-adult partnerships position youth and adults in roles of equal leadership of initiatives in their schools and communities, supporting a dynamic that runs counter to traditional patterns of youth-adult interaction. This article describes the piloting of two youth-adult partnership programs aimed at supporting the development of such relationships with different core foci at the middle grades level – one on community health and the other on school pedagogical change. In comparing the challenges and opportunities of implementing these programs in the middle grades environment, we find that while youth participants perceived positive developmental outcomes as a result of their participation, adults observed difficulties in supporting the implementation of these initiatives when the goal was cultural or social change. We discuss the implications of this finding, both in terms of examining how middle grade student voice is limited and delimited, as well as suggesting opportunities to better support student-directed efforts to address inequity in their schools and communities.

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