Can Youth Make a Difference?

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Can Youth Make a Difference?

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Today was spectacular. It proved that although we have spent nearly a month bonding over commonalities, there are still personal opinions and ideas that make us uniquely ourselves. It’s a not a bad thing per say that we find topics we disagree on, because we learn to value each others’ individuality along the way. In an eyeopening activity, we attempted to answer a question or statement each round. The questions included: “Are women better than men in promoting peace” and “Can youth make a difference in their community?” among others. For each round, we would stand close to the according wall signifying whether we thought the statement was “completely false” to “completely true”. As we lined ourselves with the side of spectrum we most agreed with, we saw divergences in beliefs, but everyone had the chance to defend their position and inevitably try to persuade their peers to join their side. Some participants remained consistently in the middle, and I think that’s a perfectly safe place to stay when one wants more time or information before formulating one’s ideas.

For most of the discussion, I saw that my peers had a mostly neutral point of view, but the fore-mentioned question generated much debate: “Can youth make a difference in their community?”. They way the participants interpreted this question involved politics and civic involvement. It was surprising to me, and certainly for some of my more opinionated fellow participants, that we had friends that thought it was impossible for young people to make an impact in their community, but they justified with personal perceptions. They argued that the system of government in their country is not as receptive as the US government, and also pointed out that some of their countries struggle with corruption, but I guess I cannot say that it is universally easy for youth to leave an impact on their community. I haven’t experienced life first hand outside the USA.

Nonetheless, it has never been easy for ANY individual to rally change. I observed that through historical lens of the American civil rights movement, international revolutions and the passive ways of Gandhi. When I was younger, I was convinced that I had to wait until I was at least 18 years old to affect any policy in my community, but now I strongly believe that youth are capable of contributing positively to their communities. However, it’s the amount of effort exerted that determines what scale the effect becomes. It may be discouraging to people of my generation. Often, there is push-back from adults that often claim that it’s better than youth wait until they are older to civilly participate, but change always requires a strong leader and the support of others to succeed. I would never claim that one person can do everything alone, much lest a person of my age. It requires cooperation, but that’s precisely why youth are powerful, we are large in numbers and we have decades ahead of us to promote a better future.

Following the activity, we had a guest speaker who talked about his leadership in the Armenian youth movement. He was a passionate young man as we could tell, and he genuinely believed in grassroots movements to promote change in his country. How odd that the participants held an exhausting debate about the role of our generation, and to have our latest lecture-person finally convince my peers that even though the effects may start small, youth’s action can grow into great significance. I like to call that the tumbleweed effect; once movements gain momentum, they get larger and larger. Amen to that.


With much love, Kathy P.