Living in the United States has many perks, one of which is an abundance of privilege. The downside? There’s a stark contrast between the lives of those with certain privileges and those without them. Fortunately, one of the privileges of being an American is having the right to speak our minds, gather in protest, and take action to drive change. Now more than ever, high school and college students are recognizing their privileges and taking action to change the world for the better through activism.
What is activism?
Activism is the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. Though it may seem like there’s no room for high school and college students at the decision-making table, there’s no minimum age for activists. In fact, youth activists can make history; plus, getting involved in activism now can set you up for a lifetime of making a difference! Read on to learn some of the best ways to get involved in the causes you’re passionate about.
Some people have a tendency to lead with our feelings, but it’s important we know the facts behind the causes we’re fighting for. Start learning by using resources like the American Civil Liberties Union, watching documentaries and movies inspired by true events, listening to educational activist podcasts, and, of course, hitting the books! There are so many resources available, and many are completely free.
Finding your community
If you’re in high school, there may already be a mission-driven club you can join at your school; if not, look into starting an activist club! If you’re in college, it’s extremely likely that activist groups are already peppering your campus, so find them and join them. Some clubs are nationwide while some will be unique to your college, university, or high school, but they are there—and they’re ready to welcome you with open arms. The best part about joining a new club? Aside from taking action and feeling good, you’ll be uniting behind a cause with people from different places, backgrounds, and stories to share. These people will educate you, challenge you, support you, and so much more.
Spreading the word
Try writing blogs, organizing school assemblies, passing out pamphlets or flyers...anything to educate your peers and community! If folks don’t know about what you’re advocating for and why, they’re unlikely to donate or get behind the cause. Do your due diligence and make sure your spokespeople are well-informed and confident enough to educate others.
There are several action-based ways to take a stand for your beliefs. Here are some of our favorites:
Advocate for legislation
Learn about the history and impact of legislative change. Help your club analyze proposed legislation in relation to its goals and assess the extent to which it will have an impact. You can study research that examines the extent to which legislation impacted injustice. Push for legislation by working with other groups with similar goals, building coalitions, and writing letters to your legislators to advocate for specific local, state, and federal laws—and encourage others to do the same.
Commit to community service
Not only is participating in community service as a high school student a great way to make your college applications shine, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to get involved and help make the world a better place. Whether alone or with your student club, show up for your community. How? Try these ideas:
- Host a canned food drive. Get in touch with your local food bank—they’ll be thrilled to have the help.
- Stage a neighborhood cleanup. It’s as easy as walking down the street with gloves on and trash bags in hand!
- Volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Helping those in need by providing a hot meal—an essential human right—is indescribably rewarding.
Stage or attend a protest or demonstration
President John F. Kennedy initially resisted supporting anti-discrimination efforts. But when protests broke out across the United States—including the infamous demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama, where police brutally attacked nonviolent protesters with dogs, clubs, and high-pressure fire hoses—President Kennedy decided to listen to the American people and take action. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or nationality. In other words: Protesting can drive real change. Don’t doubt the power of public demonstrations.
Ask people to open up those purses and put their money where their mouth is! All causes need resources, and money is required to attain those resources. Here are a few ideas for fundraising efforts:
- Hold a 5K run or bike race: Aside from entry fees, have participants engage in peer-to-peer fundraising so they can start raising money as soon as they register.
- Have a 50/50 raffle: Incentivize donations by splitting the final sum with a raffle winner!
- Host a bake sale: Get all your student club members together and make some delectable treats. All proceeds can go to your cause or charity.
If you’re 18 years old, register to vote. It’s okay if you don’t like politics (or politicians!), but policy affects us all. It’s our civic duty to elect local, state, and national officials who align with our morals, values, and vision for the future of our country.
You may be tired of hearing it, but you and your peers represent the future of America (and the world!). Getting involved in activism is a surefire way to ensure the future we live in is the one we envision—and you can look back proudly knowing you took a stand to make it happen.
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