This might surprise people whose concept of high schoolers relies heavily on "Glee," but teenagers really do want to do good for the world. It's not all about prom outfits and weekend plans: teenagers have a genuine interest in making the world a better place. They often just don't know where to start.
How do I know this? I'm a 17 year old high school junior. But more importantly, I've met brilliant teenagers who talk with tremendous passion about their ideas to solve global problems. Last summer, I conducted a workshop at the iEARN Global Conference and discussed how global issues affect different countries.
There, I asked the students what issues were most prevalent in their countries and I was completely blown away not only by the clamor of problems to solve, but the inspiring solutions these students presented for each issue.
Students were bringing a fresh perspective to global problems: we were thinking beyond the political gamesmanship and maneuvering that often stands in the way of real change. It was a sign of the power that we could talk across borders and find a way to harness our energy and our ideas.
But we also need to make community service enjoyable. Sadly, giving back has been deemed a 'chore' that many students are forced to do and trained to resent. I have made it a personal goal to change this.
What we teenagers need is a way to connect to:
- Engaging philanthropic opportunities that address what we are passionate about.
- Ways to encourage giving back with our friends.
- Other like-minded students from around the world.
This is why I founded iCAREweCARE, a student-run non-profit that leverages the power of social networking for doing good. The organization helps high school and college students from around the world connect with their friends who share a passion for specific global issues, and then provides them with meaningful opportunities to make social change a social effort. It also provides a platform for students to ask each other about how global issues affect different countries.
Adults and young people alike should start embracing the movement that will come out of the untapped potential of students. As millions of young voices are amplified, we will change the world. It's already been proven through the "Arab Spring protests," where thousands of young people banded together through social networking to advance the cause of democracy. If students could move that mountain, just imagine what else they can make happen.
It's time to stop thinking of students as the leaders of tomorrow. We are the leaders of today.