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The Year of Youth

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For a while, I have been noticing a trend of an increasing number of youth movements and activism occurring across the United States. That is why I decided to officially call 2012 the "Year of Youth." Based on whose opinion, you might ask? Well, of course, just mine! I have had the opportunity to learn about the many amazing projects that my peers have been working on across the nation, and I would like to share them with everyone. The following list of projects are those that I have had the exposure to, so it is not a complete collection of all that are out there. It also includes a project that I am currently working on.

Presidential Youth Campaign
Founder: Alex Wirth, 18
About the campaign: "The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council is a bipartisan, youth-led initiative created by young people from all across the country. We are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Most importantly, we are changemakers. Participation in the campaign does not influence appointment to the council.The President and the Office of Presidential Personnel will decide who is appointed to the council," says Alex. I have had the opportunity to talk to Alex a little bit about this campaign, and I was extremely impressed that the tremendous efforts and thoughts that have been placed into it! I see it being successful in the near future.

StudentVoice
Founder: Zak Malamed, 18
About the project: "Students from all over the country are banding together to enhance their voice in policy discussions nationwide. Students everywhere are eager to join the conversation regarding the future of their education system. Now is the time for our voice - the Student Voice -- to be heard." Their most recent project was a proposal calling Governor Cuomo of New York to place three young people onto their newly-formed Education Reform Commission. Although they were not able to get youth representatives on the commission due to it already having reached its maximum capacity, they will be able to work closely with the commissioners. In instances where the commissioner's reports do not satisfy the students, they will be able to submit their own reports to the Governor. They are currently urging the Governor to form a student advisory panel to assist in his efforts to improve the education system.

One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student's Assessment of School
Author: Nikhil Goyal, 17
About the book: According to the book's website, "In One Size Does Not Fit All, 17-year-old Nikhil Goyal offers a groundbreaking prescription for transforming American schools. Drawing from hundreds of interviews with renowned thinkers like Howard Gardner, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Noam Chomsky, Diane Ravitch and Jonah Lehrer, Goyal calls to radically redefine the way the country does schooling. From implementing an anti-disciplinary curriculum to reinventing the teaching profession, his propositions are timely and provocative. Goyal walks us through the tenets of the system, shattering claims dispersed in the education conversation." The book has yet to be released, but I had the opportunity just the other day to hear Nikhil speak on a Webinar and was extremely impressed at his scholarship on the subject at such a young age. I have nothing but excitement for the release of this book.

The Student Voice Project
Founder: Jared Costanzo
Information about the project: "The Student Voice Project is a non-partisan, non-affiliated organization that aims to represent students by speaking with today's policy makers." Being a personal member of this project, I can tell that everyone on the team is extremely enthusiastic and passionate about it. They all possess the passion for their cause as well as the abilities to make it happen.

International Youth Council -- USA
Founder and Chairperson: Hung Vo, 17
Information about the organization: The vision of the IYC is "To build a global forum and platform on which all young people can develop a unified voice and take collective action toward social, economic, and environmental progress." It is extremely exciting to be able to be part of an amazing network of leaders from around the world. Currently there are 20 countries with national chapters, and the numbers are growing by the day. The national chapter of the USA is still in the recruitment process, but once we reach a tangible amount of members, we will launch a full-scale national project.

UnitedOptOut
Outstanding young member: Stephanie Rivera
Information about the project: "We [supporters] believe that high stakes testing is destructive to ALL children, educators, communities, the quality of instruction in classrooms, equity in schooling, and the democratic principles which underlie the purposes of public education. We believe that a quality public education is a basic human right for all children, one which must remain in the hands of our communities and out of the hands of big business, corporate reformers and politicians. If we are to save, and transform, public education into spaces where ALL children have an opportunity to flourish, grow, question, challenge, think and be prepared as democratic citizens, we must begin with the fight to end the high stakes testing movement." I want to especially recognized Stephanie for her strong activism in the student community. After hearing her speak at a Webinar session, I could tell right away that she is extremely passionate about reforming the education system, and I believe with strong conviction that she will be an amazing teacher one day.

Inspire a Child
Founder: Olivia Wong
Information about the organization: "Inspire a Child is a non-profit initiative which builds environmentally sustainable soccer fields and classrooms in post-conflict and developing regions of the world.Our goal is to bridge the gap between sport and study while creating a safe environment for children to pursue their dreams. We also organize student to student mentorships and promote peace education. Through partnerships and collaboration with local schools and community centers, we seek to create positive and sustainable change for the entire community." Olivia Wong is such an amazing person. I don't know where to begin. I would recommend you contacting her if you would like to support her organization. It might take her a while to respond as she is currently in rural Nepal.

All of these individuals have three things in common: they possess an idea, have the desire for change and they can't do it alone. So I urge you all -- if there is something on this list that you are passionate about, connect with them! Do not hesitate to contact anyone on this list.