The Making of a Youth Leader
“Even though this is cliché, I want to make a difference.”
- Erik Okino, Youth Advisor
Youth are powerful and they know it. They are not afraid to identify changes that need to be made and are willing to put in the work to be the driving force behind those changes. They have a way of perceiving the world that is revealing, honest, and elucidating. We took a look at our Youth Advisory Board to see if we could discern some defining traits.
There is always a way to improve, refocus, or adjust an approach. Our youth advisors know the right way to do things, they’re aware of “best practices,” but they are also not married to them. If there is a better best practice out there, they’re going to find it and make sure we know about it.
Carter Kostler is a 15-year-old youth advisor from Virginia who has taken childhood obesity head on. After learning about the startling statistics of how sugary drinks, especially soda impact today’s youth, he decided to do something about it. Carter created a fruit-infused water bottle, a product designed with the goal of improving one’s health and recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the most brilliant companies of 2013.
Youth will tell you how it is. They will live their lives in a way that reflects what they know to be true to them and their peers. As adults trying to influence the places youth spend their time for the better, our effort might be authentic but its execution might not seem that way to the young people we hope to impact. That’s where our Youth Advisory Board comes in. They tell us what’s working and what’s not and how we can do better.
“When you can get unhealthy foods so conveniently and inexpensively, it makes it very difficult to entice youth to eat nutritious food…A barrier which plagues all youth in every economic area is the extremely busy schedules of young people. Many youth believe it takes too much time and effort to plan and cook healthy meals, thus fast food restaurants become a viable option.”
– Isaac McFarland, Youth Advisor
“Passionate” is one of the descriptors we include in all our Youth Advisory Board messaging. It is a necessary characteristic of our board members and powerful youth everywhere. Healthy change is not always easy and is not always quick. So youth who are passionate about the need for healthy change are the ones who are ready to put in meaningful work at every stage of the process.
Our youth advisor Bodhi Lovely is an 11-year-old from Arkansas. Bodhi is passionate about raising awareness for childhood health and over four years he has raised more than $2,000 for the American Heart Association (AHA) by participating in the “Jump Rope for Heart” fundraiser where he spent days jumping rope outside local retailers.
And after it is all said and done, powerful youth “do.” They take action to continue, improve, or start the change they wish to see. Taking action is often the hardest part, but when you are a thought-leading, authentic, passionate young person, it seems the likely next step.
Katie Stagliano is a 14-year-old from South Caroline. She is a Clinton Global Citizen Award recipient, a founder of her own non-profit, and a youth advisor. Katie is the CEG (Chief Executive Gardener) of Katie's Krops, her non-profit organization. She works tirelessly to feed those most in need by starting vegetable gardens and donating the produce to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and directly to the needy through Katie's Krops. Katie has been focused on supplying the hungry with healthy, nutritious meals for more than five years now.
We are excited to work with our 2013-2014 Youth Advisory Board as well as all the powerful youth around the nation. How are you empowering youth today?