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How to Change the World: Words of Wisdom from Recent Barron Prize Winners
We believe that young people can change the world. We also believe that young people want and need support as they work to make a difference. Who better to offer encouragement and guidance than other young change-makers – service-minded youth who have already launched a successful initiative of their own?
And so, we asked a handful of recent Barron Prize winners, “If you could offer a bit of advice to other young people looking to launch a service project or expand an existing one, what would you say?” Here are the wise words they offered:
The hardest part of any project as a young person is to start. There are always people who will tell you to wait until you’re older, until you have more experience, until you’ve gone through college. They’re wrong. The best time to start is always now.
You’re young, so you can ask anyone anywhere for help, and they’ll want to help you. You’ll never have less to lose! We the young people of the world live in a completely different world from the older authority figures in our lives, and we approach problems in a completely novel way because of it. The world needs more of you.
2017 Winner, Founder of Get2Greater
Improving access to medical care in developing countries
The best advice I have for anyone starting or growing their service project is to create and cultivate meaningful partnerships. You can learn so much and you have more to offer them than you might realize. Reach out to local and national non-profits who are addressing your similar cause. They can deepen your understanding of your issue, share resources, and promote your work.
Some of my best partnerships have also come from small local businesses. They don’t have the budget to create a social responsibility program, so create one for them that supports your cause! You can provide meaningful content for them to share on social media, and they can promote and support your work.
2013 Winner, Founder of LemonAID Warriors
Author of PhilanthroParties!: A Party-Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back
One of the biggest barriers to starting a service project is actually putting it into action. I’ve heard people bring up so many great, innovative ideas, but they haven’t acted on them! Don’t be afraid to think big—then put your idea into play!
Even if you think your idea seems completely ridiculous or unfeasible, don’t give it up right away. See if there’s a way to refine or tweak it to make it feasible. Don’t bite off more than you can handle. Start off small, then work towards your ultimate goal (although you may not necessarily end up where you initially intended to go).
2017 Winner, Founder of STEMup4Youth
Provides interactive STEM activities to economically disadvantaged children
It’s so important that young people identify a personal connection to their service project. There must be some link between service and passion to ensure authentic work. For me, the passion lies in my love of literacy. Such love compels me to share the gift of launching a home library with students in underserved communities.
Additionally, when considering project expansion, quality control is of essence. Design an easily implementable system which doesn’t compromise the project’s values or intentions. Spend time considering if expansion is actually feasible, and don’t feel afraid to reach out to others for help. If not for the guidance and mentorship from peers and adults, my expansion efforts would not have succeeded.
2017 Winner, Founder of Bags of Books
Distributes gently-used and new children’s books to children in underprivileged communities
We’re not alone in working to better our world and to spread happiness among its people. People of all ages around the world are dedicated to these things. Like me, you may go through periods where you get discouraged. You may be seen by your peers as unrealistic for wanting to promote change and a lot of the time it may feel like the work you do will make very little actual difference in the world. But you are not alone and together we are making a difference.
2017 Winner, Founder of Ray United FC
Funds and organizes soccer training and health education camps for children in Uganda
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment.