“This is the power of Roots & Shoots: a group of individuals taking action which creates global change,” stated U.S. National Youth Leadership Council Member Yanni Pappas, who first introduced me to the NYLC a year ago. Last fall, I completed my application, sent in some of my artwork, and hit submit. If only I knew then that I would soon be meeting my dream family of like-minded, change-making teens. It is more than a council of young leaders; it is truly a family, and it is a community-action force to be reckoned with. I can hardly describe how incredibly thankful I am for the relationships I have made and the bonds I have formed, but I am also so proud. I am proud to call myself a member of the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council, especially when I consider the collective impact we’ve had this year. Here is a quick, but powerful snapshot of the difference that we made in 2016, as the quantitative data speaks loud and clear as to our impact.
- 32 Youth Leaders. There are 32 passionate and unique individuals in high school and college who make up this diverse and beautiful council. Although we each have different passions ranging from climate change technology to turtle adoption programs to human trafficking awareness and beyond, we all have to same goal of changing the world for the better.
- Over 200 speaking engagements. For more than 200 occasions, we have stood up in front of a crowd, large or small, video called into a classroom, or facilitated a Roots & Shoots training session. We raise our voices loud, and I am proud to be part of a group who is unafraid to share our passion.
- Nearly 300 Roots & Shoots projects. Some projects are big, elaborate campaigns and some are small, living-room gatherings, but they all make a difference. Dr. Jane reminds us, “what you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Each and every single Roots & Shoots project is the final result of people coming together to make a difference for a handful of people or for thousands, and forever improving their little corner of the planet.
- Nearly 5,000 hours of service. I am astonished that when I bounce an idea off of my fellow NYLC members, someone almost always has experience or background knowledge about that particular subject matter. There is such diversity in our work. Whether we are raising money for girls’ education in India, peacefully protesting, or building an organic school garden, this group is dedicated to putting in the time in our communities and beyond.
- Almost $14,000 fundraised for the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI). As members of the NYLC, we are privileged to be working on behalf of Dr. Jane’s mission and occasionally, we get to interface with Dr. Jane herself. We consider her and all of those working at JGI our role models, and thus we want to do everything we can to support them. Even as teenagers, we work hard to do our part and be on #TeamJane!
Collectively, the 32 members of the NYLC are passionate enough to seriously drive change, and these numbers reflect some of our proudest moments and fondest memories. In addition to projects in our own communities, we come together to learn from leaders in fields that are serving the world. I will never forget the life lessons learned from the roughly dozen guest speakers who we have had the opportunity to speak with this year. We are so grateful to have learned from Jackie Zammuto from the video-witnessing organization WITNESS, Brian Kateman from Reducetarian, and so many more. We were all moved to tears and forever inspired by the opportunity to speak with Raul Diaz from Homeboy Industries, an organization combatting the gangs in Los Angeles with care, grace, and love. We are so thankful for every second that we have spent learning from those who are out in the world making a difference.
This year, the NYLC made memories in Redlands, CA where we came together for our annual Summit. The highlights included working in a elementary school garden with the community service department at University of Redlands, spending a day training in community mapping at Esri, stepping out of our comfort zones in an improv workshop with Improv Utopia founder Nick Armstrong, and skyping with Dr. Jane. We had an unforgettable week, and we are so grateful for all that we learned and everyone we met. Learn more about this experience in our vlog here.
I was catching up with my fellow NYLC member Yanni, and he remarked, “When I heard how many hours and projects we had completed, I was shocked. At first I thought that it was impossible, but then I thought about if everyone does their part in their community each month, it truly adds up in a year. This is the power of Roots & Shoots: a group of individuals taking action which creates global change. We are truly changing the world, and we’re changing it together.” We are proud of the impact we have had this year, and we are beyond excited for what the future will hold. We will make change until peace and harmony are abundant, and we will do it together. Until next year.