Breaking down age, economic, and geographic barriers
Meet the top 100 young changemakers across the United States
By Mohsin Mohi Ud Din
Thirty-two thousand is the average number of choices you and all human beings make on a given day. Seems like a lot, right? Let’s introduce a new number: one hundred. One hundred is the number of bold and creative changemaker ideas aiming to enhance our choices to further progress people and planet. Sound better?
In May, T-Mobile partnered with Ashoka for the first-ever T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge. The aim? To search, unite, and unleash revolutionary ideas from any young American across the country with an idea for positive community change.
More than 300 young people from all across the United States gave voice to their Changemaker ideas and work since we opened the application. This week, T-Mobile and Ashoka shoristed the top 100 Changemaker ideas.
Check out some of what we learned, and meet 100 ways to make a change by America’s leading young agents of change.
What do young changemakers across the U.S. care about?
From Puerto Rico to Delaware, and Kentucky to Oregon, hundreds of changemakers submitted their existing or new ideas for community impact. Most of the ideas or projects fit into certain categories for changemaking, including tackling gender gaps, promoting entrepreneurship, caring for the homeless, and protecting the environment. But out of more than 100 top ideas, we noticed that the most compelling changemaker teams fit into the following top 5 categories:
1. Life Skills
2. Mental Health
3. Technology and Innovation
4. Socio-economic inequalities across ethnic groups
5. Health and Nutrition
What are young leaders in the U.S. saying within some of these categories?
In the ‘Life Skills’ category, young people are connecting problems of violence, addiction, school drop-outs, and social isolation to lack of self-esteem, and access to learning hard skills, particularly in communities ranging from single parent homes, to minority and immigrant neighborhoods. Young changemaker teams are putting forth out-of-box solutions including financial literacy programs, cybersecurity skills-building, and home repair workshops.
One changemaker team, ‘Gear up to Change’, is focusing on building bike culture among single parent and special needs youth communities. In their application, the changemaker teams says “According to studies, kids who regularly ride bicycles report better performance both socially and academically, better physical and emotional health over the course of a lifetime and less incidences of bullying, either as the aggressor or the victim. Yet less than 5% of American children rode a bike on any given day in 2017. GearUp wants to change that because our founders recognize the power of two wheels to change a life.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10–25, this according to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Data also shows that 1 in 5 young children/young adults in America struggle with a mental illness or learning disorder. Given these alarming statistics, it is no surprise then that young leaders in the #TMoChangemaker are focusing much of their their creativity and energy on breaking barriers to mental health.
Young leaders from ‘Are You Ready for Change..’ are using music therapy as a tool to destigmatize mental disorders, and combat bullying and isloation:
“When I was in middle school, I experienced a lot of bullying. It caused me to experience severe depression and anxiety. A classmate of mine took his life when he was only 11 years old and I understood how he must have felt…. I wrote a song to try and express my pain and that is when I first recognized the power of music. Not only did it help other people cope, but it helped me heal as well. I started sharing my story and it was so powerful to realize I wasn’t alone and even more powerful to educate other youth that they weren’t alone either….”
‘Victory over Addiction”, from New Hampshire, bravely opens up about what fuels their leadership and changemaker work when it comes to addition and the mental toll it takes on families:
“Addiction not only takes an emotional toll on the person affected, but also on their surrounding friends and family. Trying to balance my education and extracurricular activities while dealing with the suffering of a loved-one many times became overwhelming. I remember feeling helpless, wondering what I could possible do to help, providing love and support without enabling is a tough balance. I have seen how proper support can be the difference between life and death, however, despite the severity of the issue, there does not seem to be a sufficient amount of long term help. I was compelled to take action after a close family member lost their battle with addiction, and founded the 501(c)(3)nonprofit “Victory Over Addiction” in order to deal with my family’s hardships as well as my own feelings of helplessness and sadness.”
A number of young leaders have been sharing how some adults or the education systems in their communities are constantly discouraging their abilities and the noise of problems on social media are drowning-out youth solutions and ideas.
“So many times we’ve been told NO because we’re too young, don’t have the resources, or simply that we’re just not good enough,” says one young leader from team ‘Because of Love’. “ But I have been inspired to make the impossible happen. I dream of a world where the younger generations are the at the forefront of change.”
Threading Twine, a changemaker team from Texas, reflects that “they [teenagers in the U.S.] often face three problems: 1) their voices are vulnerable to adults 2) their voices often get drowned out on large platforms like social media and 3) their schedules prevent them from committing to scheduled activism opportunities. Youth voices are unheard, undervalued, and overlooked.”
Despite the challenges, data from young leaders proves that no idea is too small, and no one is too young to initiate change at scale. Beyond their age, geographies, and topical areas of focus, these young changemakers are united in their resolve to master empathy, connect a passion with a problem, and be resilient leaders.
Meet the top 100 changemakers of the United States…
Whether you are a teenager or a parent, our constantly disrupted world requires all of us to step into our inner changemaker. We encourage you to plug in your passion and skills to support any number of community issues that have been defined by young leaders across the United States from the #TMoChangemaker Challenge:
In the coming weeks, the top 25 Changemaker teams will be announced. Winning ideas will receive ongoing mentorship, skills development and a portion of seed funding totaling $57,000.00 to start and sustain their projects for social good. Those winning teams will also be invited to Seattle for a 2-day Changemaker Lab hosted by T-Mobile, and receive expert mentorship and on-site innovation training to transform their creative ideas into impactful community actions.
Learn more online at www.T-Mobile.com/Changemaker and join the conversation with #TMoChangemaker.