American urban education policy debates pivot around dueling lines of discourse on what ails inner-city youth; such students are portrayed as emblems of a largely African-American and Latino ‘culture of failure’, even as their voices remain largely absent from debates about them. In response, youth-led organizations attempt to forward youth as political stakeholders. I draw upon ethnographic data from two such organizations to examine the performative aspects of their campaign work. I focus on how they engaged in (1) counter-scripting, to imagine themselves as political stakeholders and substantively prepare themselves for their new roles, and in (2) counter-staging, to gain greater access to existing public stages and construct new, alternative spaces, for more deliberative interactions with policymakers. The strengths and weaknesses of these organizations' efforts have implications for other groups of marginalized stakeholders campaigning for policy reform, especially in their attempts to demonstrate local knowledge and expertise.