MYL in Action: The Power of Change Project

7939429_origBy Christi Lee (MYL ’15)

At the 2015 MassSTAR Citizenship Conference, I learned the importance of becoming a leader in my community to affect change. I returned home and wondered how I might promote social action in my hometown. First, I needed a cause to champion.

The issue of chil
dhood hunger has always left a poignant impression on me. Cooking is my hobby and passion, so I am never without food. I am always thinking about the next meal: what to prepare, how to present it, and how it will taste. For many of us, because we have never been without food, it is difficult imagining the pangs, weakness, and diminished mental capacity associated with hunger. When we envision hunger, we see faces in famine-stricken third world countries. Few of us recognize that hunger happens in our own neighborhoods. Realizing that we need to increase awareness of domestic hunger, I knew I had found my mission: a service initiative that would easily heighten awareness of hunger and be quickly impactful. Unlike cancer or natural-disaster victims, domestic hunger is invisible. Those who suffer from hunger hide it as they are too ashamed to seek help. With only spare change, we can immediately make an impact on the fight against hunger: one dollar provides three meals. No need to wait years for medical research to find a cure or raise thousands of dollars to provide emergency aid. MassSTAR urged delegates to step-up in their communities, and with the support of an MYL Citizenship Grant, I answered the call by taking action with my Power of Change project.

5566113_origPower of Change engages students to challenge others via social media to experience hunger by fasting for one day or alternatively, donating 50¢ (or more) to local food banks. To date, the campaign has raised almost $5,000 via collection of spare change, in-kind donations and grants. My website at http://www.power-of-change.weebly.com and Facebook page describe the fundraising fun. As a cross-community movement, Power of Change has the ability to collect a sizable amount while educating many youths about hunger statistics: 1 in 9 people in Eastern Massachusetts is food insecure and 125,000 children are at risk (across the US, nearly 17 million children are at risk of hunger). Students see the ‘power of change’ as each coin they give feeds hungry families. Teens can be proud that they have made a valuable contribution and enabled social change.

Putting my ideas into action was a daunting task, but the results have been rewarding: not only is there mass participation by teens across the state in supporting hunger, but also so many of us are learning how to become social activists. To launch Power of Change in schools other than my own, I leveraged my social network and reached out to MYL alumni delegates too. I asked for help in bringing Power of Change to their schools. Together, we proved that teens can make a difference. A little change goes a long way as Power of Change provides almost 15,000 meals from youth support. I urge all students to inspire change in our communities. Take the skills that you acquire at MassSTAR, identify a cause, apply for an MYL grant and become citizen-leaders!

[ VISIT THE POWER OF CHANGE ONLINE: website | facebook ]

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MYL in Action: ProjectNextGeneration.com

By Katie Curran (MYL ’14)

I started Project Next Generation with a burning desire to make a difference in the world.  I wanted to promote diversity and a global outlook in my community.  The organization began with the power of people motivated to change the world for the better.  As a social entrepreneur, I wanted to invest in my generation.  

My biggest advice to young people is that you are never too young to create change.  No excuses!  Leading Project Next Generation has been the most inspiring and rewarding experience of my life.  PNG means a lot to me because I promote cross-cultural understanding and collaborate with fascinating individuals.  

One of the best feelings is receiving positive reinforcement.  I am thankful for MassSTAR and the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation for their constant source of encouragement.  When I hear positive feedback about my service, I feel energized.  When I was 15, I completed an exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark.  When my Danish family sends warm wishes, I know that my work is amplifying the youth voice worldwide!  Share with others the work you are doing.  Be proud and bold!  

PNG has allowed me to see the world from a unique perspective.  In February 2016, I traveled to the United Arab Emirates.  I met young world changers from over 50 countries.  I am so thankful for the meaningful conversations I had with high school students from Vietnam to Bosnia.  As I climbed sand dunes, rode a camel and visited a mosque in the UAE, I found myself appreciating every cross-cultural encounter.  Moreover, I represented my organization in Davos, Switzerland, home of the World Economic Forum.  It was especially empowering to discuss youth engagement right where international policy makers convene to address the world’s most pressing issues.  

A large component of Project Next Generation is advocacy.  I share my work with international leaders to encourage the inclusion of youth in government.  In 2013, I met President Bill Clinton and spoke with Chelsea Clinton about global health and youth engagement.  Three years later, I found myself crossing paths with the Clinton family again during the 2016 New Hampshire Primary.  I spoke with Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton.  I shared my goal to run for public office one day with Hillary Clinton and she replied, “I hope to break the glass ceiling for you!”  This moment of empowerment reaffirmed that no matter what obstacles come my way, I will never stop dreaming and achieving.  

Community service and volunteerism are integral to who I am.  I find meaning making a difference in the lives of others.  I cannot wait to see where Project Next Generation will be next as it grows and explores the world around us!  

[ VISIT PROJECTNEXTGENERATION ONLINE: website | facebook ]