Happy Earth Day to You!

In honor of Earth Day, I want to honor my dear friends, the fellow founders of Change The World.
In it's heyday, Change the World was a youth organization whose mission was to promote the personal development of youth through social and environmental activism.  Sadly, Change The World is no longer an active organization, but I know it's spirit lives on in the people who found themselves involved with us over the past 6 years.  

What were we all about?  In a nutshell: high school kids identified things in their community they wanted changed, brought them to the group, and members facilitated each other in making those changes happen.   I supported them with cheerleading, logistics, funding, and a corner with a couch, coffee table, and some workstations.  

Meetings around that coffee table were intense and inspiring.  Initiative and creativity were rewarded.  Ideas for projects were all over the place... shot out, bounced around, torn down, and rebuilt anew with focus and clarity.  

The atmosphere was composed of equal parts excitement, tension, bonding, idealism, and the stress that comes from self-imposed high expectations, deadlines, and spending far too many hours together. Whether or not we would ever change the world was up in the air, but it was clear early on that we were changing ourselves and each other.  

What were some of our accomplishments?  We booted the soda companies off campus in the first 6 months, with help from our friend Jackie.   A handful of kids against Coca Cola, inertia, and all the groups that benefitted from the money earned on soda and WE WON!  We were on fire!  Next up, we started an award winning campus recycling program for paper and cans & bottles.

We hosted an annual Hunger Banquet assembly that hundreds of kids attended in order to educate others about the inequality of resource distribution around the world.  We hosted basketball tournaments and game show style evening shows as fundraisers for the tsunami Victims, Hurricane Katrina victims, and Smile Train, which provides free surgery for children born with cleft palates.  Each time we did a fundraiser, we raised $4,000-$7,000.  

Our crowning achievement and the event most fun to work on was the annual Earth Day Festival.  Hundreds of hours went into planning the smooth operation of a community festival with live music, refreshments, games/crafts/activities for all ages, and informational booths hosted by non-profit environmental organizations.  Remember, teenagers concocted and ran this thing!  It grew bigger each year and was really something to be proud of! 

Mentoring the kids through accomplishing all of this and more over the years led to another creation, an academic elective course designed to empower students to effect change through developing their leadership skills.   The class was an outgrowth of what started as a tiny club of 5 people years before.  The vision was that each year, 30 kids would enroll in the class, but would recruit volunteers for the projects they undertook, so that hundreds of kids would be touched by the program as the years went by.  A beautiful ripple effect. 

We were off to such an amazing start, but after 5 years CTW dissolved.  I had a baby and then we moved away, sealing the deal.  We would have all loved to leave a continuing legacy and had fantasized together a lot about expanding on a grander scale, but CTW was, in the end, too dependent on myself and the other founding members for survival. 

Those other founding members?  They graduated and went off to college, returning with decreasing frequency to help the "next generation" out as the years went by and they became more involved in their own new projects.  

And, rightly so!  So, let's check in with what they are doing now.  I have been sporadically in touch with them to varying degrees in the last few years.  My plan this week is to google them and listen to the grapevine and dedicate one day's post to each.  At the end of the week, I'll do a wrap up reflecting on where we all are today.  

How are you and the people you know changing the world?  


Casey said...

What a cool idea to follow up on your group. I remember how enthusiastic you were about CTW. I imagine that experience made a lasting impact on the kids.

My favorite new eco-thing is recycling yarn out of ugly old sweaters. I "rescued" 14 huge cotton sweaters from "the bins" this evening -- it's the last chance Goodwill warehouse.

Often the yarn is fine but the style is dated or the color combination is odd. You can, with a little practice, unseam and unravel a sweater, wind the yarn into balls and either knit with it or pass it on to another knitter.

Chelsea said...

Rescuing yarn is a great idea! There are so many items made of fabrics that become outdated or partially worn out, ripped, stained but much of the fabric is still good.

Maybe we need to revive good old home ec for all kids with a modern eco spin. Knowing how to sew and cook means reusing fabrics and being able to eat whole and local foods.

DIY is the cool new thing now and that is what home ec was all about. I remember we took it in high school and those skills are still with me. We just need to remove the gender stereotyping and implied career limitations that used to come along with it.

Can't wait to see a creation of yours from reused yarn!

Casey said...

You got to take Home Ec? I wasn't allowed to take it (stereotypes ad career limitations!) which may be why I couldn't cook worth a flip for years. But I learned to sew, garden and understand cars from my parents, so it balanced out.

A theme two of my favorite writers--food writer Michael Pollan and radical homeschool advocate John Taylor Gatto--come back to is being a fully integrated person by caring for yourself (growing your own food, etc.) rather than relying on specialists to do it for you. It would be great to see more of that taught and practiced both in and out of school.

Chelsea said...

I thought it was a requirement in high school, but apparently not. I hated it because it seemed so stereotyped- cooking and sewing is all I remember. I mean, what about repairing a light fixture or leaky toilet? Those are important house "keeping" skills, too.

What I learned about sewing my mom had pretty much taught me anyway and both that and anything I learned about cooking were rapidly forgotten and had little lasting effect. So, I guess nothing about the class stuck with me at all. But I kind of made it part of my identity to refuse to be interested in or good at "keeping house" as I became a young adult.

Of course, that is coming back to bite me now that I am actually having to run a family and household and be charged with raising my son to know how to do the same.

But, I still agree with the idea in concept, and with what you said about being someone who can fully take care of themselves. I have become more and more interested in that idea lately now that I'm kind of over the stereotyping thing. So I may be heading into a "home ec" renaissance period for myself in the next few years.

I have always wanted to see a true "life skills" course taught in high schools that would include day to day cooking, sewing, repairing, personal health, nutrition, and finance, conflict mediation/effective communication, etc. Maybe someday I'll convince someone to let me create and teach that course.

BTW, I love Michael Pollan, too.