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Junior State of America

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How can today's youth get involved and help initiate change in the world?

I am sixteen years old. It is 7AM here in Seattle, and I have not slept all night because I have been watching all of these TED videos. This is one of the most invigorating and inspiring websites I have ever had the fortune of stumbling upon.

As a young citizen, I am constantly trying to determine what role I want to play in my community, my country, and ultimately the world. The trouble is that I don't really know myself. I don't really know what I'm passionate about. I go back and forth between an inspired, i-can-do-anything mentality and a state of complete and utter despair because I have no idea what to do with myself.

TED videos remind me of my desire to initiate change. They encourage me to find what it is that I'm passionate about and to commit myself to the cause, yet it seems like they give us youth very few resources to experiment, discover, and participate in a way that has any significant effects.

What I'm seeking isn't vague, unhelpful (though well-intentioned) encouragement saying, "Don't give up! You can do it!"-type things. What are some specific ways I can get involved? (Ex: Names of some nonprofit organizations I can volunteer/intern at?)

*Edit: I know that, ultimately, I have to find out for myself what I'm passionate about. Perhaps I should be asking for you to share some of your experiences in which you discovered your passion(s).

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    Jan 8 2012: Grace,
    Came across a comment you made saying you worked at youth summer camps-this is an AWESOME place to start! I've been in camping/outdoor education for about 6 years now, working with all age groups, and it truly is the best thing I have ever done. I started at 16, and would spend the summer 110 miles from home. That was my first real taste of independence, as well as living in an environment that wasn't my own. It helps to make you grow as a person, and in turn, help others. Fast forward, I'm now 22, and spent the past summer working with the Chicago Park District. One of the coolest things our program did was have our campers spend a night in their city park, which can be absolutely terrifying for kids who have never been away from home, never slept in a tent before, and, not to mention, sleeping in an area that can be seen as dangerous. BUT, it was an experience that they really took to heart, and being able to provide a positive, new experience for someone who might not get that at home, is truly astounding. It's those kids who'll grow up and become counselors because of what YOU taught them.

    Sorry, that was long winded. I get excited when I see other people who are excited about youth empowerment AND summer camp.
    • Jan 12 2012: Alex,

      I think youth empowerment is a huge thing that we need to deal with nowadays. By the time we reach around high school age, we start to stop believing that we have the power to really change things. I refuse to forget :)

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