“You are never too young to make a difference” was my answer to a little girl who came up to me at last night’s event and asked if she should do something about an issue that was weighing on her. She was a tween and reminded me a lot about myself. When I was her age I tried sports and dance but didn’t really fall in love with any of those. I was a baton twirler for a while but I hung up my boots and baton because it wasn’t really satisfying the part of me that I felt was empty.
In eighth grade a teacher asked me to stay after school and help with the Christmas toy drive. That experience really ignited something in me. From that point I was always involved in some type of project and in my 20s I eventually started my own to focus on issues close to my heart, mainly child nutrition and providing meals and therapeutic nutrition for children around the world through my giving brand Nourish.
In the past those who knew about my projects have asked me how they can start one of their own. In this article I want to give you a few ideas for getting something started. The first thing you need to do is identify a cause that you are passionate about. From voicing against the quality of cafeteria food, speaking up against incomprehensible policy of college administration to advocating for more after school programs in your community, when you put your unflinching diligence and mind to a cause, it becomes a winning situation. Now you have a cause in mind, here’s how you can be a part of social change and shape major decisions:
1) Write a Letter to or Visit Your Legislator’s Office
Advocacy begins with effective communication. Legislators represent the youth’s voice in the state capitol. When an issue demands your utmost attention, you should let them know how it affects you or those around you. You can achieve this goal by writing a letter to or calling your local assembly member or paying a visit to their staff. Stay abreast of the current issues in your vicinity, be it housing, employment, social security, health, education, recreation or human relationships, and do not waver in voicing your concerns for the betterment of the society.
2) Join a Youth Advocacy Group
Have you or somebody you know, been a scapegoat victim of negligence on part of the authorities? Have you ever felt the tangles of injustice crawling over you? There are a myriad organizations advocating about a plethora of causes. Look for one that supports your cause and empowers you to transcend barriers and be heard.
Most groups also have local chapters that address unfortunate dilemmas, such as foster care, animal protection, student rights, juvenile justice and gender inequality. The list is infinite! These groups render opportunities for likeminded individuals to come together, socialize amongst themselves to protest an issue and shape their notions for crafting a strong and organized opposition.
3) Get Involved in Public Forums
A plethora of state level public forums invite youth to participate in engaging conversations and heated debates, which are heard by the state. If you want to become a voice in such conferences, it is prudent to do some background research to equip yourself with the agenda and mindset of the group so that you are more apt to follow the thread and put forth your views. Some forums post their agendas days before conferring on the subject and this will give you ample time to prepare and shape your thoughts around your ideas.
4) Support Your Cause through Social Media
Yes, you can tweet with purpose! Advocates, employing contemporary technologies and social media channels, can recruit more people to join their cause, raise awareness among their network and provoke them to action, raise funds to support the cause, increase their outreach for signing pledges and spread viral messages through these platforms.
Young people of all ages can create discussion forums or pages for their cause and by portraying to the decision makers how people support their cause, can raise heads to their pledge. Shape the attitudes of others in your community by letting them know how a particular issue affects their lives and the environment.
5) Create a Project of Your Own
Put your creativity to the test by coming up with a small project for social good. Do you wish to increase the literacy rate in your neighborhood? Start distributing old books to children who need them the most. Do homeless people make your heart cringe? Collect important day-to-day items, instead of throwing them out, and deliver them to your local homeless shelter. Do you have a soft corner for pets? Plaster public service messages on drive ways, streets and parking lots to remind pet owners of the potential dangers of leaving their pets in the car. Get your friends on board for your project and before you know it your small project will make a significant impact in your community.
This is just the tip of the iceburg of all the ways you can start making a difference. Start small, think strategically, and keep building momentum for your cause. You never know what impact you can have until you take your first step.