Third Place Winner
There are over 600 young people across the US enrolled in the Advocates for Youth program to raise
awareness of issues they care about or want to change (“Our Legacy”). This generation, my generation is
getting more and more involved in changing their communities for the better, but even more can be
done. Today, students learn by doing and have the technology to speak out, but are not being taught
how to. Instead of having to be stuck in a classroom setting all day, students could be taught different
social matters that can revolve around science, history, math, and English, then do something about
them. This new school philosophy of activist learning provides a global mindset for students who want to
use their resources to stand up and do the right thing.
On average, I spend 8 hours of writing notes, and working on projects all in the same building everyday. I
could be contributing more to society than being bored in a building. I’d rather learn about pollution and
pick up trash at the beach, than have to do a PowerPoint presentation about how many turtles were killed
in 2016. This form of teaching isn’t helping anyone. This isn’t “raising awareness”. Everyone knows
pollution is killing animals, why can’t we fix it?
Activist learning is recognized as an official learning style, so why not have a school dedicated to it?
According to Peter Honey and Alan Mumford’s four different learning styles, “Activists are people who
learn by doing.” (Honey and Mumford) These types of students, like myself, can’t be sitting at a desk all
day. We have to be taught from real world experiences as in helping aid natural disaster victims to
comprehend what a fraction of The Great Depression period was like. A fill-in-the-blank worksheet is not
aiding the homeless, not helping us retain history, and not saving the trees. The original definition
continues when they describe activist-learners as “They…thrive on the challenge of new experiences, but
are bored with…longer term consolidation.” (“Learning Styles: Activist, Pragmatist, Theorist, Reflector”)
This further proves that the average school system is preventing me from being interested in class. I
already didn’t want to learn about the angles of a triangle. If I were to help design ramps for people that
use wheelchairs, I would be motivated and excited to learn all the equations for a great cause.
The upcoming generation, Generation Z, has new technology, but just doesn’t know how to use them to
stand up for the issues they believe in. New statistics from TIMES agrees by saying, “60% want their jobs
to impact the world … and 76% are concerned about humanity's impact on the planet.” (Wartzman.
“Coming Soon to Your Office: Gen Z.” ) I am part of that 60% that is ready to take on big challenges to
that make a change in society, yet I don’t get educated on how to. I can voice my concerns to hundreds
of people over my phone, but if nothing is being done, what can I do? Malala Yousafzai’s inspiring story
shows how much impact young activists can make using their own resources with a little guidance. “After
surviving the attack, she went on to…launch the Malala Fund in 2013 with her father to raise awareness.”
(Connley. “7 Female Activists under 23 Who Are Changing the World”) Malala was the same age I am
now when she created the fund. The fund ended up raising thousands of dollars for girls’ education rights.
Malala is the perfect example of what young people can accomplish with the new wave of social media
and other telecommunication advances. She almost died for what is right and equal, then spoke out on
what happened to help other young girls. If students were taught how to set up funds, network, or build a
website, just imagine the endless possibilities of what can be resolved.
Some schools in the US have been raising social awareness by having activities in between classes,
planning food drives, or even fundraising to help solve a community problem. Shaw Middle School’s #1
goal is to “..teach students the term social intelligence as one of the character growth traits
emphasized.” (Ryerse. “Increase Social Awareness and Build Culture: Action Steps from 4 Schools.”)
This teaching technique helps the next generation solve issues in unique ways faster and easier than my
generation. Teaching social intelligence at a young age can benefit, not only the child, but adults around
them. This can also be implemented in various subjects or dilemmas the child may encounter in the
future. It is a head-start in being a problem solver, while still standing up for your beliefs. Another school
that is leading by example is Mayerson Academy by “...challenging EdLeaders to take 5 minutes per day
(#5 to Thrive) to build SEL [Social Emotional Learning] skills..” (Ryerse. “Increase Social Awareness and
Build Culture: Action Steps from 4 Schools.”) 5 minutes add up throughout the school year in learning
how to deal with your emotions when you don’t agree with someone, while still being a responsible
young person at the same time. This is a great starting point in becoming socially conscious to what is
happening around you. Both schools are training their students to be ready for future obstacles that they
will encounter, instead of sheltering them.
One might object here that high school students are too young or simply not ready to learn about
“controversial” social issues. What this argument overlooks is the fact that high school is designated to
prepare students for the real world, instead of shielding them. My generation is growing up. The real
world is everywhere, on social media, news, and in our own towns. We see school shootings, political
tactics used against us, and United Nation disagreements on the Internet everyday. We are going to be
the future presidents, ambassadors, senators, and activists of the world. We should be allowed to be
taught by having debates, helping our community, and exploring topics that we find important.
My generation is hungry for knowledge needed to solve international problems. In this environment,
activist learners are not just going to learn the basics to get a high school diploma, but are going to
succeed by resolving political matters they care about.
“Honey and Mumford.” University of Leicester, 17 July 2008, www2.le.ac.uk/departments/doctoralcollege/training/eresources/teaching/theories/honey-mumford.
Admin. “Learning Styles: Activist, Pragmatist, Theorist, Reflector | Online Education & Elearning.” FutureSchool, 7 Apr. 2016, www.futureschool.com/blog/learning-styles-activist-pragmatist-theoristreflector-one-child/.
Connley, Courtney. “7 Female Activists under 23 Who Are Changing the World.” CNBC, CNBC, 8 Mar. 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/03/08/these-7-young-female-leaders-are-changing-the-world.html.
Ryerse, Mary. “Increase Social Awareness and Build Culture: Action Steps from 4 Schools.” Getting Smart, Getting Smart, 30 Jan. 2017, www.gettingsmart.com/2017/01/increase-social-awareness-build-culture/.
Abramovich, G. (2015, June 12). 15 Mind-Blowing Stats About Advertising. Retrieved from https://www.cmo.com/features/articles/2017/12/14/15-mind-blowing-stats-about-the-future-ofadvertising- exb.html
“Our Legacy.” Advocatesforyouth.org, advocatesforyouth.org/about/our-legacy/.
Wartzman, Rick. “Coming Soon to Your Office: Gen Z.” Time, Time, 12 Feb. 2014, time.com/6693/comingsoon-to-your-office-gen-z/.