Can teens really self-organize and invent ways for communities to overcome complex social-economic issues in the United States, such as: water pollution, homelessness and discrimination? Graduating senior Inshira Mohi-Ud-Din was on the scene in Anne Arundel County, Maryland to find out what youth-led changemaking really looks like.
Recently, the next generation of Changemakers at Old Mill Middle School came together to present their changemaker projects for building a better world for all. These three projects focus on the subjects of homelessness, water pollution, and discrimination.
“True empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagining what might be useful,” says Emily, a Girl Scout and youth founder of ‘Homelessecities’. While browsing the internet, she came across washcloths that could be stitched and made into toiletry kits. When she looked at it, she thought to herself: 'Who could this be useful for? How can this help a community?'.
She reached out to her school community, made announcements, contacted other schools, as well as her Girl Scout troop and other local Girl and Boy Scouts. Incredibly, she collected 4,599 donations of small toiletries.
She and a partner from her Girl Scout troop spent hours assembling the kits in the washcloths. Each kit is individualized to specific needs -- sunscreen for those who spend time outside, or shaving tools. Each kit was paired with a book and donated to the YWCA, food pantries, and anyone else in the community who needed it. Emily set her project up to be sustainable by presenting it to younger Girl Scout troops for them to carry it on in the future.
Ryan Johnson and Ethan Haas told Youth Venture that its program encouraged them to take a deeper look into the problems within their own community. Ryan and Ethan chose the topic of water pollution — an issue very close to home as their school is right on the Chesapeake Bay. Their solution to this problem is called 'Roboats'. They fastened a net to the back of a model boat that, in theory, would collect trash out of the ocean.
Initially the net was sinking and closing up, making it unable to pick up any pollutants. To solve this problem they added weight to the bottom of the net to force it to expand, as well as flotation devices to the top of the net to keep it from sinking. Both boys are students with a passion for science and they enjoyed the opportunity to research and think creatively to modify pre-existing technology to benefit their community.
Nrahja Logan and Malea Sharps approached the issue of discrimination, unsure of how prevalent it really was in their community. As young changemakers engaged Youth Venture's program, the first thing they did was research and hold community interviews. They designed and took a survey to see how many of the students had actually experienced some kind of discrimination. From the survey, the teens identified discrimination as a real problem and then looked towards a feasible solution. The solution was to raise awareness by making school-wide announcements to shed light on the amount of their peers who have felt discrimination. The Changemaker project has “made me take my time and be nicer to everybody, because I don't want to be part of the statistic,” Malea said.
Great entrepreneurs start in their teens!
Ashoka and Youth Venture believe that experiences and opportunities for leading changemaking should start early-on in childhood. Why? Because mastering empathy and changemaking at an early age greatly impacts the trajectory of a young person growing up in today's world. See for yourself! Check out our new campaign where leading social entrepreneurs from around the world illustrate how they started in their teens. Share the global movement by posting these stories using the tag: #MyYouthVenture!
Youth Venture has teamed up with Anne Arundel County Schools, teachers, parents and students to integrate changemaking in STEM curricula. By providing opportunities for youth to master empathy, fluid leadership, teamwork and creative problem solving, classrooms are ensuring young people are in charge and driving socially-minded innovations. Watch how we working with educators and parents to transform the Anne Arundel County School District into a 'Changemaker District'.
If this Youth Venture program is something that interests you as a student or as a teacher or administrator, contact Youth Venture today!
*This blog was written by Inshira Mohi-ud-din, a graduating senior and Global Scholar from the Holton-Arms High-School. She will be starting her first year at Kenyon College as a part of the KEEP Program, class of 2020 .