This year's theme at Brimmer is Responsible Leadership and Student Voice. I remember being in middle school and early high school and hearing people tell me to use my voice. I’d always be like “yeah sure I will,” but in my head, I’d be thinking, “there’s no way I can do that.” There are a lot of reasons why I thought that way. I thought I was too young. I thought I was too shy. I thought I was incapable of making a change and I’m sure a lot of young people are thinking the same things right now, and I want to say that it’s just not true.
As teenagers, we tend to think that, because of our age, we are incapable of making an impact, but it’s actually the opposite. Let’s say Drake is dropping an album. Which age group is he usually trying to get to listen to it? Our age group. When Apple drops the new iPhone 37, who are they spending most of their advertising on? Our age group. When the newest Avengers movie comes out, who are they trying to get to go see it? Our age group.
Now, why is this? It’s because we have the most impact, and companies know it, so it’s time we start realizing it, too. It’s never too early to make an impact. Many people have noticed this lanyard I wear around my neck. There is a story behind it. For the past two summers, I’ve worked at The Steppingstone Foundation. In one short sentence, The Steppingstone Foundation provides under-served youth with educational opportunities with the end goal of getting those kids into college. When kids start in this program, they’re in the age range of 10 to 12 years old.
This summer, two of the classes were given the opportunity to design a product, anything they wanted, to raise awareness for a cause or topic they were passionate about. They all got to make their own designs and after they were done, they voted on which one they would actually make. One of the amazing kids named Liliana designed this lanyard. On both the lanyard itself and on the badge connecting it says, “Break the I.C.E.” Underneath it, it says, “Immigrants Caged Everywhere.” A short sentence, but it has so much meaning and depth to it. She designed these to raise awareness for the situation at the border and the situation of I.C.E. raiding undocumented people’s houses. As a reminder, these kids are 11 and 12 years old. 11 and 12. Liliana herself is 12 and she’s already fully aware of these issues in the world and is using her voice to raise awareness for the causes she’s passionate about. I wish I could give everyone one of these lanyards, but she and her classmates sent boxes of them to government officials and attorneys so that they could hear the message as well.
I bring up this example just to prove that you’re never too young to make a difference. You don’t have to be on a stage giving gigantic talks to people. I know some people just aren’t comfortable with that. But there are so many different ways you can use your voice without saying a single word. Volunteering, donating, even just wearing a t-shirt about your cause is a way to raise awareness and use your voice. I was inspired by Liliana’s story and a lot of the other kids at Steppingstone, as well. I’m going to continue to use my voice as much as possible and my hope is that you will as well.