Let’s Hear It for Youth Activists!


I am in awe of young people.

Today, for example, I read about a group of teens in Louisville, Ky. who continued to speak on LGBT issues. High school students from duPont Manual High School were censored for writing about gay issues, but they refused to let their voices be silenced. They decided to run an underground paper, The Red Pen, and won the annual Courage in Student Journalism Award.

Then there’s McKenna Pope, a 13-year-old who recently challenged Hasbro, Inc. on gender stereotypes in their products. The Garfield, N.J. teen started an online petition calling for the company to produce the Easy Bake Oven in gender neutral colors and feature ads with both boys and girls using the product. The young woman collected more than 40,000 signatures and gained support from celebrities like chef Bobby Flay. She also landed an face-to-face meeting with Hasbro executives. The company agreed to make a neutral oven for all children to enjoy.

Open any local newspaper and nearly all of the positive, change-making news stories feature youth. There are kids donating hair to Locks of Love, staffing lemonade stands, holding sales for a cause and hosting canned food drives. More than 55 percent of youth in the United States volunteer, compared to only about 27 percent of adults.

I want children to continue to make changes. We need their ideas and their energy to make improvements. Children need our help and encouragement.

It is obvious that our students care about their communities and want to step up and make a difference if provided the right tools. Teaching Tolerance has several resources we can use to help encourage this social consciousness. As their constant allies, we can help them remain interested and engaged, standing by them while they move mountains and challenge injustice.

Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Missouri.