Leaders of tomorrow are taking charge today

February 22, 2011

By Iman Baghai

You don’t need to look far to see the impact of Issaquah teens’ service projects.

By Iman Baghai

Beaver Lake Middle School’s annual South African Humanitarian Project, a youth-run initiative, raises truckloads of school supplies for African orphanages each year.

Skyline High School’s Katie Mincin recently organized an Invisible Children Awareness Week that earned more than $4,000 in donations for the global nonprofit.

Beat writer Kim Bussing and classmate Kaileen Dougherty, of Issaquah High School, are holding a Destination Imagination event March 5 at the Pacific Cascade Freshmen Campus, where younger kids have the chance to participate in science fair type activities, acting and the arts.

Last year, Bussing and Dougherty raised $900 for Haiti by selling concessions at the event. This year, they plan to donate the earnings to Seattle Children’s.

While some teens are busy running service projects, others are active on community boards, offering their insights on issues to adults. Beat writer Ehrik Aldana has served as chair of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council program, which advises the state Legislature about how to address teen issues, such as addressing bullying and lowering the school board voting age. Student representatives also are members of the Issaquah Park Board, Issaquah Arts Commission and the Issaquah Community Network, shedding light on what the future citizens of Issaquah want and how board decisions will affect teens.

According to a recent survey of 500 Issaquah teens conducted by the Issaquah Youth Board, 90 percent of teens surveyed believe it is important to have a youth presence to advocate their values and opinions.

However, 52 percent believe community leaders care about the youth voice, while 42 percent felt otherwise.

Many adults refute the significance of teen representation on these boards. Teens are disregarded as inexperienced, naïve and irrational. However, according to service-learning researcher Shelley Billig, “Outcomes related to service-learning are maximized when students are given greater degrees of responsibility for planning, decision-making, problem solving and assessing their learning. In other words, youth voice is not only an essential component of high-quality service-learning programs but also helps to magnify the positive results of service-learning.”

A study by the University Of Wisconsin found that youth voice on an adult board is a key factor to broadening the minds of adults and to the progress of the organization, especially because teens offer fearless, fresh and innovative approaches to issues.

Organizations such as Youth Venture Seattle recognize this potential in youth. The nonprofit organization, with the mottos “Dream it. Do it.” and “Everyone’s a Changemaker,” is dedicated to helping teens achieve their dreams of making a substantial difference in their community. Through providing youth with $1,000 seed grants, mentorship and the resources needed to start their own community projects, Youth Venture Seattle has given birth to youth organizations such as SIFF, a group of Redmond High School students who serve as buddies to autistic youths; Dig Deep, a nonprofit that has raised more than $13,800 to build public water taps in Ethiopia; and StudentRND, an organization that runs science and technology workshops through the Seattle Science Center and the Microsoft Store.

All around us, teens are getting more involved in their local, national and global communities. And many more are eager to get engaged in activism; they just don’t know where to go, who to go to and how they go about doing their business. Yet.

This is why the King County Youth Summit will be held at Cleveland High School on March 15, with the sole purpose of providing youths with ample opportunities to get involved.

Teens are the leaders of tomorrow, after all.

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One Response to “Leaders of tomorrow are taking charge today”

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