Empowering future generations to lead: The impact of youth activists
Emma Dobbs, Managing Editor
At 17 years old, teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has become an international icon. Thunberg first gained media attention for her two-week voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions produced by commercial flights. She has since spoken at the 2019 United Nations Youth Climate Summit, testified before the United States Congress, and been named Time’s 2019 Person of the Year. While the teen has faced skepticism from adult political opponents, she is no stranger to setbacks. Thunberg shared in a 2018 TED Talk that she, “was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD and selective mutism” at the age of 11. Thunberg chose to live outside her diagnosis, speaking up to create awareness of climate change and environmental dangers among other youth.
While Thunberg advocates for environmental activism, alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a public high school in Parkland, Fla., advocate for gun safety regulation. After an expelled student opened fire at their high school, killing 17 of their peers, David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, and Alex Wind, among several others, rose as teen activists. Emily Witt, a staff writer at The New Yorker, wrote, “I traveled to Parkland to cover the tragedy and was surprised to find myself also documenting the rise of a political movement.” Following an unthinkable tragedy, Parkland teens rose to address politics otherwise decided by adult lawmakers. In a matter of days, Emma Gonzalez went from a regular teen attending high school classes to a nationally broadcast speaker and activist, sharing her story of tragedy while founding the nonprofit organization March for Our Lives, an organization dedicated to ending and preventing gun violence through legislation.
Over the last decade, youth have risen from the tragedies of their generation to share their stories and ideas with the world in order to enact change through personal experience. Activism encourages youth to connect with their communities, and establish their own, to change and better the society they will one day lead. Youth involved in leadership gain an outlet to use their voice to impact the lives of others. Activism can positively impact self-confidence and self-esteem while providing opportunities for youth to gain real-world and leadership experience. National youth advocates exemplify the possibilities of youth leadership and collaboration towards common goals while providing a positive connection to the world around them. While youth may not be able to create and pass laws, they have the ability to use their passion and ideas to impact and change the world.
Against tragedy and injustice, youth have spoken up in support of their opinions while concurrently launching political campaigns. Not only have youth stepped into the role of politicians and advocates, but they have also continued pursuing academic excellence as students. Ambitious youth have spurred forward new movements recruiting their peers to voice the opinions of their generation. With passion and drive, youth have utilized social media and digital communication to further their opinion and share messages across the globe. By establishing community, teen activists have changed how society views issues like climate change and violence in schools, among many others. While their techniques may be unique and unusual, there is no denying that they have seen results.
Countless teens and young adults around the world have risen to the role of activist. Shamma bint Suhail Faris Mazuri advocates for youth around the world. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history, advocates for women and girl’s education through her writing. Jamie Margolin, a senior at Seattle’s Holy Names Academy, founded Zero Hour, an international nonprofit spurring the discussion surrounding climate change to new heights. Regardless of political affiliation or systems of belief, the passion and bravery of youth are found in their activism. Youth activism has become the new normal, and hopefully, is here to stay.