THE BLOG
11/13/2013 04:22 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

A Fire Spreads

We come from broken hearts, broken homes, broken streets, broken schools, broken cities, and broken systems, and we are all called to service in repairing the city we call home.

This past weekend, I was one of 50 people selected to participate in Ignition Philly, which empowers young leaders to tell the story of what Philadelphia is now from the young leaders inspired to craft what Philadelphia will be next.

I have never been so hopeful for the future of this city. Each one of us was challenged to dig deep within ourselves and find what it is within us that truly calls us to service, and each one bore our souls to a group of strangers -- our group of strangers -- brought together by nothing more than a fire inside that drives them to work tirelessly to make Philadelphia into the city that it was meant to be at its founding. Many of my colleagues told stories of how the city itself had failed them or their families, cutting them to their core and ripping their lives apart, and yet find it within themselves to serve. Inspiration does not come close to describing what I felt when I heard the stories of these strangers, now friends and colleagues.

For a long time, I've rejected the title of "Millennial" -- personal reservations with the "Occupy" movement, concerns that millennialism was an overreaction caused by increased ease of media consumption, a general fear that my generation was just kind of... lazy. Over the past year and a half, however, I've slowly shed my reservations, and Ignition Philly led me to dive in headfirst.

The representatives of my generation present this weekend are leaders that look at problems endemic to Philadelphia and create their own paths to solve them. It should not be cliché to say that we did not cause these problems -- it is not our policy that closes schools, cuts 20 meals from food stamp benefits from our most needy families, or allows 1,100 foster children to age out of the system, into a city where more than 30 percent live in poverty. It is not our government that resists change. It is not our philanthropic culture that pours money into a social sector that helps people in need but does not solve problems.

What should be celebrated about my colleagues is that we have identified what is wrong and are fundamentally changing the status quo. Sooner than you might think, the people I spent the weekend with will sit in political office, will have control of the faucet that funds programs that actually work, and will become captains of industry that look at a triple bottom line -- where our primary shareholders will be the environment and social impact. Too often people look to existing structures to solve the problems that they themselves have caused. We're not going to do that.

Ignition Philly is the spark that will light the fire of social change in the next generation of Philadelphia's leadership that will fix this city. I am proud to be a part of this inspiring group of servant leaders who have channeled their pain towards creating an environment in which our children will have different stories to tell. Last night, at Ignition Philly's closing, there were 50 of us. This will continue to grow as we continue to Ignite Good in our communities, and by the next Ignition Philly, there will be 500. A fire spreads.

This post is part of a series from Ignition Philly, an Ignite Good event for millennial change makers in Philadelphia. To find out more: http://www.ignite-good.org/ignition_philly