Making A Difference: The Power of Empowered Youth
A Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative participant finds the sum of creativity, communication and service has an impact bigger than its individual parts.

by Tania duPont

There are approximately 7 billion people in the world and 6,500 spoken languages. Yet, the voices of my generation are still unheard.

The neurons firing in our minds provide a creativity that needs to be cultivated in order to work for change in the social quandaries of the world. This creativity must be captured to produce innovative ways of practicing sustainability.

We have the ability to provide our service to improve the well being of others, and through doing so recognize the gravity that our actions can have, that age does not dictate effort. But the disdain that youth are so frequently confronted with has instead taught a brilliant generation how not to act.
I did not allow this to stand for me.

Sustainable Economic Development for Hawaii's Future
Sustainable Economic Development for Hawaii's Future

Last summer I was nominated to serve as a youth delegate from Hawaii Island to a  Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development. At the summit I met young people from around the world who, like me, had dreams for our lives, our islands and the world.

When asked to prepare a presentation about one aspect of sustainability on my island, I chose food security. I believed young people could do something about this.

Since the summit I've worked with the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative team to envision and develop my Sustainability-In-Action Project. For my project, I decided I wanted to blend creativity and communication with service. I concluded that as important as the act of service is in the physical aspect, communication of service is equally integral in change. I developed this thought after realizing that I had often dreamt of helping my community, I just didn't know how or where or who to talk to.

This was the problem. The communication aspect I discovered was sheltered in the realm of my own generation's short attention span, the product of people telling us that our ideas were better suppressed by the consumption of the screen. Hype about creating change was often addressed sporadically without any true commitment. I needed to be educated and presented with reality.

Immersion Experiences At KITV, Civil Beat
Through participating in an immersion day with KITV Anchor Lara Yamada and Civil Beat Opinion Editor Todd Simmons, I was able to comprehend the ability of communication and the power of media in shaping public discourse.

In preparation for this immersion experience, I developed questions that addressed my contribution to the community. Questions such as, how do I deepen the impact of my actions? How do I draw to the essential narrative? How can I be more effective as a young person who cares about the state of the society, and how can I enable other young people to obtain this perspective?

"So many times, young people have never been engaged in the idea that they have thoughts and skills that are important, that they have the power to make an impact," said Civil Beat's Simmons.

Through witnessing the various aspects of communication in the KITV news station, and later in discussion in the office of the Civil Beat, I was prompted to think about my experiences and draw upon them as a means to communicate my ultimate message: Youth have ideas that are worth hearing.

The youth of my generation are relevant to society in being more than what is stereotypically expected of someone of my age as being unresponsive and ultimately oblivious to the greater world around us.

Through active participation, young people can truly make a true difference. As we get older, our actions can be more expansive and impactful, so it is critical that the seed of service is planted early.

I have often witnessed youth being ridiculed by their peers for being passionate about sustainable changes, instead of being mindlessly engrossed in the latest tabloid. Youth who recognize the extent of their own power are less self conscious about caring, and once in an environment that cultivates confidence, they recognize the value of service, the value of improving the life of another being with no expectation. Such realization, in and of itself, gives back more than anything that can be quantified.

Young people have immense power; they just need to be empowered to realize its potential.

On Monday I was invited to share my Sustainability in Action video about food security with my school. Following the video, I launched a two-week long food drive in conjunction with my school's Olympics, an event that produces friendly competition and incentive to act. The aim of my video was to give my peers the opportunity to be educated about the prevalence of hunger in the community, and then the ability to address it by donating food.

SHYLI Sustainability Project: Fight Food Insecurity in Hawaii
SHYLI Sustainability Project: Fight Food Insecurity in Hawaii
You can contribute today in empowering not only youth, but yourself, as well, by becoming involved with a local organization battling hunger. Taking action against hunger is easy: Donate to a food pantry near you, become an active volunteer, attend a service event or organize a fundraiser of your own.

Through providing students at my school with the opportunity to have a direct association and ability to contribute to the community and address immediate sustainability efforts by donating food, I have helped them empower themselves and turn consequential ideas into actions.

The efforts of my generation will not go unseen.

About the Author
Tania duPont

A junior at Hawaii Preparatory Academy on Hawaii Island, Tania is an avid photographer, writer and filmmaker. She served as a youth delegate to the 11th annual Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development on Martha's Vineyard. She wrote this essay as part of her participation in the Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative.

Sustainable Hawaii Youth Leadership Initiative
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