Youth Can Change the World

By Mosaic Youth Center with Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner
From Step-by-Step, Search Institute, 2001, pp. 7-10

You really can change the world if you care enough.
—Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund

Have you every really wanted to change something in your school, neighborhood, or family, but you didn’t know where to start? Are there problems you see that bug you, but seem too big to take on by yourself? Well, we know just where you’re coming from and we’ve written this book to help you out...

One thing about being young is that a lot of people don’t expect you to care about your community. They definitely don’t think you’ll take the time to make it better, figuring you’re too busy with school, friends, whatever. In fact, only about one in five youth feels valued by adults, and only about one in four thinks that adults see youth as valuable resources. But we know that young people have a lot to contribute.Most important, many youth do want to make their communities better. And since you’re taking the time to read this book, we know you are one of those people.Whether you think of yourself as a leader, or the idea of leading scares the heck out of you, this book will show you some simple steps to make the world (or at least your little corner of it) a better place. 

So what can we do to get people to notice and support the great work youth are doing on behalf of people of all ages? How can we get them to listen and pay attention to the important things we have to say? How can we create the kinds of places we want to live and grow up in? The answer is simple: We can take action.

That’s why we wrote this book. We want to tell you the story of how we are working to change our community and to give you helpful pointers. We hope that this book will get you stepping in the right direction: toward positive change in your community...

The Steps

Instead of chapters, we’ve divided this book into six steps to positive change. For each step we’ve provided advice, examples, and ideas. Here is an overview:

Step #1: Pick Your Purpose—Ideas for issues to take on and tools for helping figure out what’s most important to you and your community.

Step #2: Take on a Team—No matter how “powerful” you are, you’ll have more success if you work with others—youth and adults. This step gives tips on recruiting and building a great team.

Step #3: Put Together a Plan—Tomorrow, what’s that? As much as we believe in living in the moment, we’ve learned that it helps to think at least two steps ahead. But don’t worry, planning doesn’t have to be hard. It can even be fun.

Step #4: Get Things Going—Here’s where the action happens! We’ll tell you how to make a project work well 

Step #5: Reflect on Your Work—You probably know in your gut how things are going, but this step can be helpful as you try to make things even better. (And this is the kind of stuff that makes adults want to shell out money and other support.)

Step #6: Celebrate!—Whatever you do, don’t forget to party! Life’s too short for all work and no play. Everybody needs to take time to feel good about what they’ve done and to honor the hard work of others. Here you’ll find ideas for small, big, and huge celebrations.

Before you move on, we need to clarify something. These are the basic steps you’ll need to make change, but you won’t always take them in a straight line. Within each step there will be choices to make and variations to try. You may even want to go back and do some things over. We can’t promise that this will be easy (change usually isn’t). It might be fun, though, and in the end:

  • Your community will be better;
  • You will have done something you can be really proud of;
  • You’ll have an impressive experience to put on a job or college application; and
  • You’ll probably have met some really great people along the way.
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