In this period of unprecedented events, I know millions of kids who are ready to share their voices. Join me in listening and giving them a platform to speak.
As a mom of four, and the leader of a philanthropy whose mission is to create healthier school communities in partnership with our nation’s schools and our nation’s youth, I feel more strongly than ever that “the youth voice” is not being heard. Whether it be the unrest in our nation around race and inequality, the fear of living in a COVID-19 world, or the consequences of food insecurity, job losses or other vital topics of importance to them, young voices need to be heard.
At GENYOUth, we can’t do what we do without the student voice. We are privileged to support 38 million kids daily in 73,000 of our nation’s schools because our programs are created for and with KIDS. It’s their voice that curates, defines, and elevates the work we do. Our society will only grow stronger if we uplift, empower, and amplify the voices of this next generation. For the foreseeable future, I will turn over this platform on Medium to them, in addition to my Twitter and Instagram feeds. Women that I have long admired, and who lead by example, like Kimberley “KC” Clarke, the Founder, President and Chief Strategy Officer of KCI Management Inc., a multinational, boutique event management firm based in Canada. KC is proudly joining me to amplify our student voices. These students have asked one thing from all of us: LET US SPEAK! We are honored to do so. I am now pleased to share Brody’s voice with you:
Recently, it has felt like every time I open Instagram, all I see are posts covering injustice, hatred, and racism. It makes me wonder what I can do to help the movement. Because I am a white student from a predominantly white area, I have never experienced racism firsthand. Unlike many of my black friends, I’ve never been followed around in a store because someone saw my skin color and suspected I would commit a crime. Even though I’ve never personally gone through experiences like this, I know that the best thing I can do is use my voice to enact change in our society. Even though I’m not directly affected, I still care about these matters. I cannot stand on the side and watch everything go down without doing my part. Although change won’t be easy, if we band together, it is possible.
I believe that the first step to a true, systemic change is educating yourself. With our current access to technology, learning about what’s happening with the movement is one Google search away. Before you can initiate change, you need to understand the entirety of what is happening. It is important to not only read about the peaceful protests, but also the policies being developed. The next question you need to ask yourself is simple: why is this happening? Before judging, it is crucial to understand the intent, morals, and values behind the actions. Black people have been silently struggling for decades and this movement has given them a platform to finally create change. It’s our job as allies to listen and stand with the African-American community in any way we can.
Once you understand what’s happening on a wider scale and the intent behind it, you should then reach out to the people around you. Your peers can give unique insight to what is happening in the area around you. I know my black teammates and close friends were the first ones to tell me about how racism affects our community. The fact that some of my friends had to live with a constant sense of fear in the back of their mind because of the color of their skin was shocking. It helped me realize that the problems being brought to light by ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not only a national problem, it is an issue in my own community. Many acts of racism are subtle and often times go unnoticed; therefore, it is up to you to educate yourself enough to truly notice the racial bias in your own community. Once the problem is recognized, an appropriate action can be taken and a direct change can be made.
So, how do we make this change? For one, it is simply not an option to be a bystander anymore. If we want change, everyone needs to speak up. Now is a time better than any to express your opinions and educate the people around you. Social media gives everyone the ability to share their views and realizations. By sharing what you’ve learned, you can inspire others to enact change as well. Communities across the nation have also shown their support through protests. The larger the gathering, the more attention brought to the cause. There is a true power in numbers; therefore, it is up to individuals like you to make an effort to attend these protests and be a part of the change. Lastly, use your right to vote and participate in local government. Each member of our government plays an important role in society. If you are old enough, you need to be present at local, state, and federal elections to vote for candidates who will truly inspire change. These are only a few of the various ways to use your voice and each is important in its own way.
Now, we all need to educate ourselves and recognize the issues in order to make change happen. So, will you join me and become a part of the change?
Brody of Virginia will be entering the 11th grade this Fall and is very involved at his high school in a number of extracurricular activities. He plays baseball and runs track for his school. Brody loves watching sports and knows most of the players on his favorite teams. Outside of sports Brody plays violin, participates in NJHS, and participates in GENYOUth’s flagship program, Fuel Up to Play 60 at his school.