How can I get involved in making positive change for my community?
In its current state, the world needs drastic social reform and improvements if we want to maintain and provide equal opportunities to those living on Earth. However, creating long-lasting, meaningful change requires participation from all of society. An ideal way we can all be part of this social transformation is through civic engagement.
In the book Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, published by Onyx Press, the editor Thomas Ehrlich says civic engagement “means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.”
As more and more young Americans are being educated on the many social issues that take place in the world, they are simultaneously growing more active in driving movements and communicating with policy-makers, while also empowering other citizens within their communities to participate in the change.
“Protesting and expressing our opinions is a huge part of our freedom as young Americans,” West Ranch junior Nicole Guteriz states. “Brave people have given their lives for our freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. Because of this, it is really important to take advantage of what has been given to us and use it to the best of our abilities.”
“I am civilly active because I believe that everyone should be treated equally” Guteriz said. “Change for the better of everyone is good, and with a little more acceptance and love, the world can become a better place.”
Raushni Chowdhury, junior at West Ranch, explains, “It is really important to be civilly active during this time because we need to give back to our communities… [we need to] stand for others and give to those who are in need. We are all human beings and are on a single planet. [We were meant] to help and be there for one another.”
Where COVID-19 has removed the option for young people to take to the streets to voice their concerns about these surfacing inequalities, staying at home has not translated to staying silent.
Freshman Esi Otoo believes that “now more than ever, everybody is aware of how flawed our world is. We are young, but it is still important to make change. Everything will affect you, if not now, it will later.”
Currently, Otoo and many other youth activists are using social media and other digital platforms to drive civic engagement around issues such as climate change, racial injustice and inequality in voting accessibility.
There are many ways students can become involved and grow as an activist, all while in quarantine.
A large part of being civilly active is going out and protesting. Because COVID-19 has paralyzed our country and continues to claim the lives of thousands, it is easy to feel powerless and disheartened. While our lives and activism work have been put on pause, the issues we are addressing—from climate change to racial injustice—continue to rage on. To remain inspired and committed to activism work, young advocates can turn to sources such as Ted Talks, books about or written by influential activists while also having conversations with various groups of people with multiple views on an issue.
The saying “knowledge is power” is a phrase young activists can take to heart. Being passionate and knowing more about an issue allows one to be better positioned to create change. Now is a prime time to educate ourselves about the various issues affecting our communities and our world. From watching a documentary about climate change to reading news articles about local politics and policies, there are countless ways to better inform ourselves about the most pressing issues of our day.
Sign an online petition
Due to social distancing measures, there’s not much in-person activism work that can be done right now. Besides holding fundraisers and taking the time to educate peers, young people nationwide have turned to online petitions to make their voices heard, relying on sites like change.org to demand action. Making a goal to sign five petitions a day can seem like a small act; however, this is a simple yet effective way to stand up for what one believes in.
Connect with other activists on social media
As a youth activist, the greatest change is usually made when collaborating and supporting others. Fortunately, connecting with other activists has never been easier. Social media makes it possible for us to find and partner with activists in our communities and even with people on the other side of the country. While reaching out and following national-level activists and figures is important in becoming educated on various topics, make sure to also follow local, grassroots-level activists and students who are fighting for change in your community.
Right now, some students are using the resources they have to advocate for what they believe in.
During quarantine, West Ranch Junior Raushni Chowdhury has “safely and peacefully protested several different causes” locally with friends and “helped host a community drive for the local food bank.”
Chowdhury explains the heart behind her activism: “I am passionate about civil rights for all people and taking care of those that are less fortunate than us. I look for every volunteering opportunity that I can get a hold of because it not only keeps me grounded but also is really important for the wellbeing of our community.”
There are plenty of flaws and issues present in every sphere of life begging for change and improvements. It is our responsibility as a community to fix them. With the help of social media, peaceful protests and communication, we can do our best to make the world a better place.