Empower kids and teens during COVID-19

girl looking out window at virus
girl looking out window at virus
Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay

Why empower kids and teens during COVID-19? They need it!

Taking action is one important way to make a problem seem more manageable and less frightening, so getting young people involved can actually help them cope with the situation we are all facing. Giving them a purpose gives them something else to focus on besides what they’ve lost or what they’re worried about. And reminding them that we are all in this together (even while six feet apart!), can help them feel less isolated and anxious during this challenging time.

We need them.

During a crisis, we need all hands on deck to get through it as well as we possibly can. And young people have a lot to offer, even in the case of the current COVID-19 crisis. But trying to come up with ways for a young person in your life to BE A CHANGEMAKER while complying with social distancing guidelines and keeping everyone safe during this COVID-19 crisis may feel like an impossible task. It’s true that life looks very different now for most people, but there are still many useful ways for kids and teens to give back.

So, how can we empower kids and teens during COVID-19 in a safe and responsible manner? Here are a few ideas and resources for them to choose from:

    • Do you play a musical instrument? Perhaps you can perform a “drive-by” concert to cheer up neighbors or schedule one for your apartment building. I’ve even heard of one group letting people “hire” them for this purpose, and then donating the money raised to organizations in need during the crisis — win, win!
    • Do you have some durable markers or paint? How about decorating some rocks with positive messages to leave along the sidewalk, in building entrances, or on trails in your area? I’ve also seen a lot of fantastic chalk art on streets, sidewalks, even the fronts of houses or buildings (be sure get permission before decorating someone else’s private property!). Art, especially that with messages of hope and connectedness, can go a long way toward lifting people’s spirits these days.
    • Write letters or draw pictures for senior citizens or anyone else who may be isolated now. Reach out to your local senior centers and ask if you can send photos of the letters and pictures for them to share with their residents.
    • Clean your room! Seriously. Now is a great time to tackle that overdue chore. Some items to consider purging include gently used clothing you no longer wear, sports equipment you’ve outgrown, toys, books, etc. You may not be able to donate them right now, but it’ll be nice to have them out of your way now, and organizations will appreciate them when things open back up again.
    • Check in on friends and family. Use the phone or other available technology just to see how they’re doing. Talk about how you’re doing. No matter how old or young you are, this is one that benefits everyone. It may seem trivial, but it may be just what the person on the other end needs.
    • Be kind to your teachers. Whether your current teachers are your usual teachers, your parents, your grandparents, or an older sibling, all of this is new to them (yes, even if you are homeschooled!) and they are doing their best to help you be successful while also doing all of the other things they need to do right now, many of which are also new to them. Offer a word of encouragement, a thank you note, or a genuine smile whenever you can.
    • Youth Service America has a bunch of other great ideas here, including holding a virtual dance-a-thon, organizing a teddy bear hunt, raising awareness for an issue you care about, and more!
    • For teens, look into mutual aid organizations in your area and see if you can contribute. Not familiar with mutual aid? The basic idea is that everyone has something to give and that we are all dependent on one another. You can read more about the idea here, but, in short, they are networks created by individual community organizers among specific groups of oppressed people or during local emergencies like natural disasters. With the current public health crisis, however, they’ve been sprouting everywhere. Paired with the power of today’s readily accessible technology, they are an even more powerful force. There’s a massive list of existing mutual aid organizations here. If you can’t find one that fits, start your own with this Mutual Aid 101 Toolkit, and be the hero of your community!

Whatever you do, be sure to check federal, state, and local guidelines to make sure you are complying with the most recent advice. And… stay safe, stay home!

How #ChangemakerEd is improving #BacktoSchool

Be a Changemaker cover

I came across an interesting article on Medium the other day. It talks about “reimagining education in this historic time of change” and the importance of #ChangemakerEd, the global movement to empower young people to create a better world by mastering empathy and identifying as changemakers.
#ChangemakerEd book "Be a Changemaker" coverThis movement isn’t new, but it is growing. And as the author of BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, I couldn’t be happier. Through my work with students and teachers based on my book, I have seen it firsthand time and time again. Once students realize they CAN be changemakers, their whole outlook on life changes. Suddenly they see prospects and opportunities they couldn’t have even imagined before. And it goes far beyond the individual students themselves, of course. As it says in the article:

The key factor for success for every community — be it a company, a city or a country — is the proportion of its population who are changemakers. A collective ability to address complex social problems — and to anticipate future ones — is paramount to positively shaping our world.”

#ChangemakerEd schools and educators are leading the charge to prepare today’s young people for exactly that kind of success by helping them gain the knowledge, practice the skills, and feel the sense of purpose that is necessary for them to thrive as global citizens and have a positive impact on their communities. Along with the core subjects, more and more teachers are also teaching their students to have empathy, be thoughtful, be creative, take action, lead the way, and collaborate with others, while allowing them to apply their education to real-world problems right now.
Interested? Read the full article here to find out more about this important movement, and watch this inspiring video about one #ChangemakerEd high school in Arizona:

 
And, of course, check out BE A CHANGEMAKER for inspiration, real-life examples, and tons of practical how-to advice that teens can start putting to use immediately, whether they have access to #ChangemakerED in their own school or not!

7th Graders Changing the World

I recently came across this article about some 7th graders from Owasso, Oklahoma. It says, in part:

Several reading students at the Owasso Seventh Grade Center recently participated in the school’s first “Be a Changemaker” program.
The program – based off Laurie Ann Thompson’s book, “Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters” – enabled students to affect change in their classrooms and the community through different passion projects.
Eighty six students across five classes combined what they like, what they’re good at, and a problem they felt passionate about to create a campaign that would make a lasting impact in that area.
Language Arts teacher Amber McMath, who led the two-week program, used the premise of “Be a Changemaker” as the foundation for the course, designed to help students in reading remediation improve their skills.
“They’re only assignment was to come up with a venture that would change the world,” she said. “The book inspired us to do that because it had several projects in it, and it also was kind of a guide that walked you through how to do it.”

The kids addressed bullying at their school, started a video game club, collected food for a homeless shelter, and raised awareness of issues including human trafficking and food waste. They engaged in public speaking events and social media campaigns, wrote meeting agendas and press releases, contacted businesses to ask for help, and researched grants and other crowd-sourcing outlets to raise funds.
Way to go, Owasso 7th graders (and their awesome language arts teacher, Ms. McMath)!
Read the full article and see a photo here.

Young People Changing the World at We Day Seattle 2017

I didn’t get to attend this year’s We Day Seattle 2017 event on April 21, but it looks like it was incredible, as usual! The event was co-founded by changemaker Craig Kielburger, who is profiled in Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, and it is all about young people and community service. Despite the star-studded lineup, you can’t buy a ticket to WE Day—students from across the country earn their way by the actions they take on one local and one global cause of their choice. WE Day is free of charge to students and educators, thanks to the generous support of Microsoft and The Allstate Foundation.
“Every year, more than 200,000 students from over 10,000 schools around the globe earn their tickets to WE Day through the yearlong WE Schools program, creating positive impacts in their communities,” says Craig. “WE Day Seattle will unite and celebrate thousands of young leaders who are working passionately for the causes they care about most, creating sustainable change in their own backyards and around the world.” And it looks like it once again did just that.

Craig and Marc Kielburger and Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll at We Day Seattle 2017
Craig and Marc Kielburger and Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll at We Day Seattle 2017 (Photo Credit: Suzi Pratt/ Getty for WE Day)

As reported on GeekWire:

Write down your goals, listen more, and dream big.

These are good pieces of advice for anyone, really, but they held special importance for more than 15,000 students who gathered inside an energetic Key Arena on Friday in Seattle for WE Day, an annual event that celebrates youth empowerment.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin told kids:

“No dream is too high,” Aldrin told the crowd. “I know because I am living proof.”

Buzz Aldrin at We Day Seattle 2017
Buzz Aldrin at We Day Seattle 2017 (Photo Credit: Suzi Pratt/ Getty for WE Day)

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a WE Day Seattle co-chair, told them:

“I hope everybody in this room is writing down their goals and what they want to do in life,” he said. “Once you set those goals out, go achieve them. But you can’t achieve them alone — you need to achieve them with other people.” –Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson at We Day Seattle 2017
Russell Wilson at We Day Seattle 2017 (Photo Credit: Suzi Pratt/ Getty for WE Day)

Many more stars were in attendance, too. What a treat for the young people in attendance!
And what a benefit to our local communities, as well. During the 2015-2016 school year, WE Schools groups in Seattle volunteered more than 500,000 hours for local and global causes and raised more than $900,000 for more than 600 local organizations. Since 2007, WE Schools have raised nearly $80 million and volunteered more than 27 million hours for various causes.
Who says kids can’t change the world? It looks to me like they already are.

We Day Seattle 2017
We Day Seattle 2017 (Photo Credit: Suzi Pratt/ Getty for WE Day)

Be a Changemaker update: StudentRND

CodeDay logoStudentRND logo
I thought some of you might be interested in reading an update from one of the co-founders of StudentRND, which was one of the organizations profiled in Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters. StudentRND is now the force behind CodeDay, which is “a nationwide event where student programmers, artists, musicians, actors, and everyone else can get together and build apps & games for 24 hours.”

a scene from CodeDay
Kurt Schlosser interviewed Tyler Menezes, the executive director of the Seattle-based nonprofit and GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week, and I especially loved this question and answer, which has stuck with me and is rattling around in my brain in interesting ways. Schlosser asked, “What do you do, and why do you do it?” to which Menezes replies:

I’m the executive director of a tech education nonprofit. You don’t get rich or famous working for a nonprofit, but we can solve problems that fly under-the-radar of pure-profit initiatives. If you asked most tech investors who we were, they wouldn’t know our name, but if you asked a student from a low-income school in Auburn, Phoenix, or Boca Raton, there’s a decent chance they could tell you a story about an impact it made on their life. That’s why I do it.

Way to go, Tyler and StudentRND! Read the full article here.

Check out the Starbucks Upstanders series

Starbucks Upstander photo

Starbucks Upstander photo
Have you seen the new original series that Starbucks is putting out, called Upstanders? It’s really cool! According to their webpage:

Upstanders is an original collection of short stories, films and podcasts sharing the experiences of Upstanders – ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. Produced by Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Upstanders series helps inspire us to be better citizens.

Apparently, they–like so many of us–were feeling a bit disheartened by our current political climate. Their press release says,

In contrast to the divisiveness and cynicism currently fueling our national discourse, Starbucks today debuted “Upstanders,” its first original content series, which aims to inspire Americans to engage in acts of compassion, citizenship and civility. “Upstanders” features ten stories, each told in written, video and podcast form, about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities….
“We’ve asked ourselves what is the role and responsibility of a public company and, as citizens, how we can catalyze hope in a time when we need more optimism, empathy, compassion and leadership,” said Schultz.  “The upstanders featured in this series are inspiring individuals whose actions are emblematic of the American spirit and what is missing from so much of today’s national dialogue. We have always been storytellers at heart, and more of these stories need to be heard. We are using our scale to share them as broadly as possible.”

I love seeing these kinds of examples of how everyone can choose to Be a Changemaker, so the Upstanders podcast is now added to my subscription list! Here’s a trailer to give you an idea what it’s all about:


 
Catalyzing hope in a time when we need more optimism, empathy, compassion and leadership? Now that’s something I can stand up for. Thanks, Starbucks!
Upstanders image

Two more awards for Be a Changemaker!

Be a Changemaker cover

Be a Changemaker cover
Be a Changemaker was recently awarded two more prestigious awards:
Moonbeam AwardFirst, it was recognized last month with a Moonbeam Award! These awards were created “to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading.”  You can see the full list of winners here. Be a Changemaker was selected as a Gold Award winner in the Mind-Body-Spirit/Self-Esteem category. They even sent a gorgeous (and seriously heavy) medal to wear around my neck!

Burgess Award seal
And, just today I found out it has also been awarded a 2015 Gelett Burgess Award, too! The Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award “highlights excellence in family-friendly books covering the broad expanse of a child’s existence, helping them grow socially, emotionally, ethically, intellectually, and physically.” Be a Changemaker was selected as the winner in the Lifestyle category for “Helping Others & Philanthropy.” Look how pretty!
Burgess Award Be a Changemaker display

Radio Interview: T Love’s Energy Awareness

head shot of T Love
T Love, host of Energy Awareness

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to get to participate in another fantastic radio interview to talk about Be a Changemaker, and it was a blast! I really felt like the host and I just “clicked” and were on the same wavelength. I wish we weren’t on opposite coasts, because I think we’d have a great time hanging out together.
Please check it out here. Enjoy! 🙂

Nonfiction Monday: Courage & Defiance blog tour and interview

Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

Facts First! Nonfiction MondayAs you can probably tell by my books Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream, I love writing about heroes and changemakers. It should be no surprise, then, that I love reading about them, too. My favorite kinds of stories are those about ordinary people who acted with extraordinary strength, conviction, and courage, and the book I just finished reading is full of people doing just that. In Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic Press, August 2015), the author has clearly done a great deal of careful research to bring us narrative nonfiction about the WWII resistance movement in Denmark from the perspective of some of those who took part in it. It’s a gripping tale of adventure and suspense, and one that has rarely been told.

Deborah has been interviewed on this blog before, and I’m super excited to welcome her back once again as part of the Courage and Defiance blog tour. I hope you enjoy the interview!
LAT: I know I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Deborah. What kind of young reader do you think Courage & Defiance will appeal to? What other books might be read-alikes? 
DH: I visit schools all over the country and love to ask students what they’re reading. While fantasy and science fiction are always popular, I’m usually surprised by the number of students – girls and boys – who tell me they like to read about history and like nonfiction. There are definitely kids who read everything they can get their hands on topics such as the Titanic and World War II, but I think readers who enjoyed Number the Stars by Lois Lowry or The Diary of Anne Frank will also enjoy Courage & Defiance.
LAT: This is a story that many of us probably haven’t heard before. Why do you think that might be?
DH: I think perhaps that here in the U.S., we’re most naturally interested in stories that take place after America entered World War II on December 7, 1941. (As it happens, my next nonfiction book about submarines in the Pacific war begins with the attack on Pearl Harbor and will be out in 2016 for the 75th anniversary.) While I did find a number of adult nonfiction books about the experience of Danes during the German occupation, which began on April 9, 1940, almost all were scholarly titles or of interest primarily to historians (including a 600-page book about the SOE in Denmark). I feel fortunate that I was able to find as much as I did in English, but I am sure there is much more available in Danish. We were able to access the photo archives of the Museum of Danish Resistance.

Hopkinson-headshot
Deborah Hopkinson

LAT: During the research phase of Courage & Defiance, what discoveries did you come across that made you feel like you’d struck gold? Was there anything in the research that came as a surprise?
DH: At author visits, I tell students that my favorite part of writing is the research. And since I knew little when I began several years ago, I felt like I was discovering something new and incredible at every corner. Probably the most significant discovery I made was finding a memoir in English entitled A Letter to My Descendents by Niels Skov. Niels, whom I later had the privilege to meet, came to the U.S. after the war, where he received a Ph.D. and became a college professor. His personal account was so incredibly lively and vibrant – which matched his personality, even at age ninety-four. To my surprise, he had been deported to a German labor camp at the same time as another activist whose story I tell, but they did not meet. It made me realize just how many incredible stories there are in history, and how easily they are lost.
LAT: This one may be tricky, but if you can fathom a guess… What do you think it was about the Danes that made them able to resist the Germans and support their Jewish countrymen so effectively? 
DH: Well, I am not sure I am qualified to say, but what comes across in all the first-person accounts I found was that ordinary people shared an unwavering sense of human decency, a love of country, and a commitment to doing the right thing – even at great cost. It seems to me that as the war went on, the confidence and belief that people had in democratic values helped to give them the courage to take risks.
LAT: In the book, you asked Niels what his advice to young people today would be. Now that you’ve done all this research and written such a fantastic book, what is YOUR advice to young people today?
DH: While young people in America now may not be faced with life-and-death decisions as Danish citizens were in the 1940s, we all grapple with difficult personal choices. So perhaps I’d simply give the same advice I’ve often told my own two children: make good choices and do good work in the world. And, of course, I have to add: keep reading!
LAT: That’s great advice, Deborah. Thanks so much for visiting today! 
For other stops on the Courage and Defiance blog tour please check deborahhopkinson.com.

Be a Changemaker wins COVR Book of the Year!

BaC at COVR awards-DSC_5012-2Each year the Coalition of Visionary Resources gives Visionary Awards to winners selected from the best products in the Mind/Body/Spirit marketplace. The 18th Annual Visionary Awards were announced at the INATS Awards Banquet on June 27, 2015.BaC at COVR awards-DSC_4627
I’m beyond thrilled to share that Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters was selected not only as the Best Children’s and Teen’s Book, but it was also named COVR’s Book of the Year!

BaC COVR BotY

 

Whitney Diffendorfer, Marketing Director at Beyond Words, with the award

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