How to Empower the Youth to Change the World

A change agent is someone who uses their voices and actions to create change, like three children in Kolkata, India who took it upon themselves to increase polio vaccination rates and help put their community on the map so that they could have access to clean water.

A change agent is someone like Jackson Merrick, a 5th grader from Virginia who happened to notice a Nothing But Nets sign at a basketball tournament.  He was so inspired, after learning about the organization’s efforts to help end deaths from Malaria in Africa, he decided to raise money by selling African themed bracelets, key-chains and necklaces to purchase 18 insecticide-treated bed nets to protect a classroom of kids and their families.

But How? How Can We Empower Youth?

Some would say that as idyllic as it sounds- to empower youth, it is not that easy as parents, community leaders and teachers to foster this sense of ownership and leadership in children. Some might even wonder how can we put our future into the hands of tweens and teens, whose ideas span from the simple lemonade stand to lofty dreams that are ridden with logistical complications.

 The “how” of how to empower youth to be change agents is to let them be kids and develop their own ideas- wherever they are in the range of potential social good actions.

The answer is simple- we simply let them “do.” We let them dream and think. We give our youth the tools to collaborate and problem solve, brainstorm and reflect. We empower them to believe that their voice matters without judging or criticizing their ideas.

The “how” of how to empower youth to be change agents is to let them be kids and develop their own ideas- wherever they are in the range of potential social good actions. While one teen might be ready to speak out on a cause to their classmates or create an after school club, another might produce a video to build general awareness, while another might make bracelets to sell for a cause. The action almost doesn’t matter as long as it is meaningful to the student and fosters a sense of purpose.

A new study conducted by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the United Nations Foundation found that 9 out of 10 American youth between the ages eight and 19 give money to organizations dedicated to charitable causes. Tweens and teens want to give, participate and have an impact- it is up to us to support and empower them.

When we let our children’s voices and ideas speak for themselves, the actions are more powerful…more inspired.

How to Inspire youths to change the world, by ELENA SONNINO September 20, 2013

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