Today, more than half the world’s population is under age 25, presenting an unprecedented opportunity to engage young people in solving the most pressing problems around the globe.
An analysis from a recent Teen Voice study answers the age old question, “How do adults tap into this unbound, youthful energy that could be used to make a difference worldwide?” The results concluded there are three characteristics common to young people who have what is needed to effectively bring about change – passion, access to meaningful relationships and voice. Having passion is a start, but how can we use this energy effectively to make a mark? We all need two more things - role models who help us nourish our strengths and a vehicle to express our voices.
Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), Youth Service America’s (YSA) signature campaign and the world’s largest and longest-running youth-led service campaign combines all of these ingredients, allowing youth to make a large-scale impact.
This year, YSA will give out more than $1 million in grants through the support of generous partners such as State Farm®, UnitedHealth, The Walt Disney Foundation and the Sodexo Foundation, all to support youth-led projects. It is possible to engage young people in a variety of service and service-learning initiatives that set the foundation academic and workforce success, as well as civic leadership. These grants complement issue-focused planning resources to help youth achieve maximum community impact.
Communities across the world will benefit from Global Youth Service Day, this year scheduled for April 15-17. I’m sure you are thinking, “why an entire weekend for a ‘day’ event?” In more than 100 countries, YSA collaborates with hundreds of community and faith-based organizations and schools, providing engagement opportunities year-round.
Originally a USA-based event only, National Youth Service Day – started in 1988 – increased its scope after I spoke at an event in Russia and a little boy asked, “How can we get involved in something like that?” That year nearly 30 countries participated in what became Global Youth Service Day. Not surprisingly, young people were leading the way, something that has never changed.
This year, GYSD will boast some of its highest numbers ever as YSA continues to work with hundreds of global and national partners, on more than 3,500 registered projects. To learn about opportunities in your area, visit www.GYSD.org.
Student service and service-learning begin at all of the places where youth spend their time – home, school and community. As the high school graduation rate continues to decline at an alarming rate, all three also must assume a role in helping students to stay in school and graduate on time.
When we as a global community give our youth opportunities to take on leadership roles in communities, assist in developing our young people’s strengths through meaningful relationships, and build platforms for youth to express themselves; the benefits to societies are limitless. When “experts” attempt to solve the world’s challenges, the tremendous passion, strengths and voice of youth are left on the table. There is no problem in the world that is not being solved somewhere by a young person. The youth of today must be seen and supported as catalysts for change.