Empathy is the Youth Power Skill of the 21st Century

12/05/2017 12:31 pm ET Updated Dec 05, 2017

By Steve Culbertson and Karen Davis

We have never met a parent who doesn’t want their child to be a good and gracious human being.

While there is no single pathway to goodness, empathy is a must-have skill. In fact, it may be the single most critical ingredient to a young person’s development, leading to success in school, work, and life.

In order to learn empathy, young people need high-quality opportunities to do empathic things, like bold acts of kindness and volunteering in their communities.

If empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human, then service is at the heart of what it means to have empathy.

The Kindness Rising campaign, is a collaboration of Hasbro’s philanthropic initiative, BE FEARLESS BE KIND, and YSA’s #LeadASAP. The campaign calls on youth to stand up for others, be inclusive, and make a difference. Essentially, it’s about putting empathy into action.

If empathy is at the heart of what it means to be human, then service is at the heart of what it means to have empathy. We believe that young people can be fearless and kind by putting their empathy, passion, and creativity into action as they #LeadASAP to make the world a better place. ”ASAP” are four strategies to practice empathy and kindness: Awareness, Service, Advocacy, and Philanthropy.

Elevating and putting an emphasis on kindness can be a pathway to a healthy and positive school environment. Studies show that 25% of the inputs for learning come from the classroom teacher, the rest comes from the conditions facing students at home and in the hallways before and after class. So, when teen Matthew Kaplan witnessed his younger brother being bullied, he fearlessly decided to change the school climate, not only for his brother, but for other middle school kids across the country. Matthew and his friends created an anti-bullying campaign called The Be O.N.E. Project. They not only challenge kids to be kind, but to be positive role models who hold others accountable to be kind as well, thereby harnessing the power of peer pressure toward inclusiveness, rather than exclusiveness.

A kid doesn’t have a lot of choice about hunger. – Jackson, 11

As 11-year-old Jackson Silverman discovered at a young age, empathy can change communities and empower young people to be part of the solution. When he found out that 16,000 kids in Charleston, South Carolina do not have enough food to eat, he suddenly realized that a kid doesn’t have a lot of choice about hunger. A kid can’t make their own money or buy their own food or cook their own dinner. Kids who are thinking about food don’t do as well in school or have the energy to do kid things like run on the playground.

Luckily for those hungry kids, in 2013 Jackson rallied his family and 25 friends to pack 150 food bags at the local food bank. Four years later, his team of 150 kid and adult volunteers from I Heart Hungry Kids pack 2,500 bags of food monthly. That's over 10,000 meals at each packing party!

To participate in the #KindnessRising Campaign and take the BE FEARLESS BE KIND pledge, visit YSA.org/KindnessRising.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” –Desmond Tutu

How the Campaign Works

YSA and Hasbro launched the Kindness Rising campaign to help youth develop a greater degree of understanding and caring for one another, support their communities through service projects and kind acts and be the catalysts to keep Kindness Rising! Through December 20, educators, youth program leaders, caring adults, and youth will visit http://YSA.org/KindnessRising and take the BE FEARLESS BE KIND pledge and then put that pledge into action through acts of kindness or service projects. Youth who complete a service project and show their impact will be eligible for a $250 grant to support continued service. For everyone who takes the BE FEARLESS BE KIND pledge, Hasbro will donate a toy or game to Toys for Tots for up to 250,000 children in need this holiday season who have been impacted by the recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico, South Florida, and Houston, as well as fire victims in California.

Steve Culbertson is the President & CEO of Youth Service America, a Washington, DC based platform for activating children and youth in over 100 countries to find their voice, take action, acquire powerful skills as they solve problems facing their communities.

Karen Davis is the Senior Vice President of Global Philanthropy & Social Impact at Hasbro, Inc., a global play and entertainment company committed to Making the World a Better Place for Children and their Families. Hasbro was ranked No. 1 on the 2017 100 Best Corporate Citizens list by CR Magazine, and named to the Civic 50 as one of America’s Most Community Minded Companies for the Fifth Consecutive Year.

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