Young Leaders Making Change: How Teens Can Get Involved

Dana is a 16-year-old from San Diego, CA. Her love of reading and writing has allowed her to share the experiences and lessons that have taught her so much with countless others. She enjoys traveling to new places, dancing and cooking, and hopes that one day she will both work in the education field and become a published author.
Oh, that little thing called stress. School goes from being a place where attendance and grades determine if you are a “good” student or not to a place where the extremes are taken to define yourself as more special than the 1,500 other students in your school. As we teens progress into the years of getting prepared for college, the sleepless nights of studying, extracurricular activities, and perfect SAT score just won’t cut it. Passion, drive, and true interest is what colleges seek the most, and the more defined a teen is, the better chance they have of heading in the right direction.

Fortunately, there are more opportunities than volunteering at a place one has no interest in just to fill up the log of community service hours. There are wonderful career internships and a thing we call youth activism.

The “youth” in activism:

When parents hear the word “youth”, they may think of their younger days when innocence dominated the teens and all were blooming into lovely flowers. Today, however, teens are different. Although there are a plethora of new issues with teens that tend to head in both the positive and negative direction, there is no doubt that teens these days are hard-core and driven. They know what is expected of them, both from parents, colleges, and their peers, and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

With this tenacity, teens are the strongest of activists and have the opportunity to get involved with raising awareness, expressing their voice, and making change – a perfect way into the hearts of those colleges.

But of course, activism is driven by true passion and teens will embark on the journey of becoming an activist not just to brighten up their college applications, but because they care about the issue and causes they fight for.



The Road for Teens to Become an Activist and Get Involved:

Teens are demanded to define who they are and make something of themselves, so being an activist raising awareness for a cause, creating work projects to make the desired change happen, and sharing stories and experiences with others is a personal autobiography rolled up into one.

1) – Created in 2001, YouthNoise is an independent organization for high school and college students to work as “noisemakers” and write blogs to raise awareness. Young activists are celebrated for their work and can be nominated to earn grants for activism projects, attend global events and conferences, and volunteer for non-profit organizations such as StandUp For Kids designed to put an end to teen homelessness. A community and blogosphere, YouthNoise empowers young leaders to make change and have a voice to make a difference, as well as showcase they work they have done and share inspiration with readers. By applying to be a featured blogger, anyone can get started on the road to finding pass in and becoming an activist.

2) Amnesty International – Amnesty International advocates human rights and can be joined by teens through Amnesty International chapters that hold clubs at many schools. Members of Amnesty International clubs hold events such as benefit concerts and fundraisers to raise money for causes and it is a great way to meet fellow activists passionate and dedicated to making a difference.

3) Creating other clubs/cultural exchange programs offered by schools – other clubs such as Gay-Straight Alliance, Help for Homeless, and Interact, (associated with Rotary International), are things that can be joined in local communities to work on small but great projects to advocate causes for change. So much can be done within a club that a young activist can go on to do larger things for these organizations in the future as well.

Schools also offer cultural exchange programs such as San Diego’s Amigos de las Américas where students are given the opportunity to receive training and increase cultural understanding through community service in Latin America and live with host families in small, rural towns. Teens love venturing into the unknown, and if discussed with parents, would be eager to go and learn something new.

How Parents Can Help:

Although parents can tell their teens to do their homework, attend soccer practice, or study for that upcoming test, passion is something that only the subject can behold. What parents can do, however, is encourage teens to do something they genuinely find an interest in and have the desire to make change happen.

1) As if you would buy your daughter/future author a book with writing contest entries, ask what issues he or she cares about the most.

2) Prompt them to join clubs at school that support these interests. Getting involved is always easier when someone suggests an idea!

3) Share with them and encourage them to apply as a featured blogger for the website.

4) Rather than just giving them advice, be sure to get them enthusiastic and of course, passionate about their cause.

Teens are in a stage when getting involved puts an end to all the stress and overload of growing up and school. Even if it’s not strictly for college, activism is something that can always be pursued for it is not a job, but a true passion.

Photo: Mirna Haidar from Flickr

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