I think that in today’s complex, multifaceted society, most teenagers experience feelings of uncertainty and even insignificance when coming face-to-face with the vast world around them. How on earth can a seventeen year-old, who struggles to simply pass a driver’s exam, possibly make a difference in the global community? For someone like me, a senior at Oakland Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, it’s difficult to envision how someone so young could influence the lives of those within a local community let alone a foreign country. The truth is, every one of us, regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic standing, can make a difference. The circumstances that characterize our era, from the introduction of social-networking sites to the realization of globalized interconnectedness, enable each of us to discover the living conditions and ethnic customs of people from Pittsburgh to Shanghai and everywhere in between. Teenagers at home and abroad are now collaborating to affect positive, meaningful change all over the world. By voicing opinions more freely, our generation is leaving an international footprint, by raising awareness for the causes about which many of us are passionate.
For my all-girls high school, finding out about the extensive violations of women’s rights that occur in many nations deeply troubled the entire student body. As young women, fortunate enough to live in a land where equality and freedom are treasured and respected, we struggled to comprehend the devastating cultural norms and gender stereotypes that prevent girls our age from freely developing their potential and following their dreams. Committing time and energy to this vital global issue, students and faculty joined together to act on this knowledge; action is a necessary step in making a difference in the world. Mentored by a teacher, several students and I spearheaded the campaign, which included two screenings of Girl Rising,* a film which illustrates the lives of nine different girls and their struggles to gain an education. Oakland Catholic hosted a screening of this documentary-style “movement” by 10×10 Films that is meant to grant access to education for females everywhere. By inviting the local community to screenings of the film, and donating to CARE, a relief agency that aims to transform societal attitudes on female education on the grass-roots level, my school was able to advocate for and advance the mission promoted by Girl Rising.
You, too, can raise global awareness for an international issue. Today’s youth need only to research the true state of the world in order to begin to involve themselves with current events. Despite what some may say, ignorance is not bliss; it prevents equality from taking hold in communities around the world. By investigating a range of issues featured as articles in newspapers, segments on news programs, and subjects of educational lectures, high school students can learn about the institutions that both hinder and support development in various countries. Although overwhelmed by the seemingly infinite number of problems that plague society, teenagers can be encouraged by the shear amount of charity, compassion, and support that thousands of individuals and organizations provide to victims in order to eliminate such problems. The actions of individuals and communities, like what my classmates and I organized at Oakland Catholic, serve as inspiration to others, who learn of these worldwide efforts through online posts and fundraising events, to do the same for their own causes, inciting a cycle which will hopefully never be broken.
By Abigail, a student at Oakland Catholic High School
*The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh also hosted two community screenings of Girl Rising earlier this year. Due to its success and the positive feedback received, the Council plans to host a screening of Not My Life, a new documentary intended to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking around the world. The screening is anticipated for January 2014. More details will be available on our website soon.
This post is part of a series of blog articles written by student youth reporters. If you are a high school student interested in becoming a youth reporter, please contact Emily Markham 412-281-7027, or by emailing Emily@worldpittsburgh.org.