Mothers are truly special beings of the world, as we reminded ourselves this past month, and they embody how important it is to lead by example when you have such impressionable minds at the table. There is a hardly a better example of this than Roots & Shoots leader Reese Arthur and her mother who are quite the activism duo. Since she became a camper in 2009 at her mother’s girls empowerment camp, Reese has not stopped spreading the message of peacemaking and global change. She has been on the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Leadership Council for 2 years, and has been implementing the skills she learns from her peers into her own organization, Upstream, which works on global awareness. With support from the Jane Goodall Institute, members of the NYLC receive leadership training and guidance from Roots & Shoots staff which they then share with hundreds of thousands of Roots & Shoots members around the world as the youth representatives of the Jane Goodall Institute. We caught up with Reese to uncover the details about her path to service and how she has continues to spread the message of peace daily to a network of young people.
Name: Reese Arthur
Exemplary Compassionate Leadership Skills/Traits:
Acts with a Purpose
Hopeful & Optimistic
Roots & Shoots Projects:
Take A Stand with Virtual Reality
Dance for Kindness
Favorite “Lazy Day” Activity: I am getting interested in photography — it is such a fun way to explore where you are and see things in a different way.
The Dance for Kindness is a worldwide event that Reese and some of her Roots & Shoots friends participate in annually. It is a flash mob where everyone poses at the same time across the globe in a kindness position.
Q: What is your favorite Roots & Shoots project that you’ve worked on?
Reese: My favorite initiative is my organization called Upstream. I work with middle school and high school boys on becoming part of the solution. What we do in our meetings is based loosely off of ThinkPeace Workshop for girls, an organization my mom started in 2009 in order to foster self discovery and global awareness. Upstream is particularly geared towards boys and aims to bring them into the conversation on global issues. I started the group because I realized that my brothers and his friends were growing apart as they got older, and I wondered how to go about mending that. It seemed as though teaching engagement and global awareness might be a good place to start. The workshop has a lot of hands-on activities to get the boys interested, and then we usually jump from there into conversation, so they don’t even realize they are learning. I do these workshops in Saratoga Springs when I am home, with my brother and his friends mostly, or people that I have babysat. One of the projects I have done with them is the Live Below the Line challenge by UNICEF. 1.2 billion people worldwide live below the poverty line which equates to living on $1.50 a day in the United States. UNICEF challenges people to try this for 5 days for some perspective about global livelihoods. Sparked by this idea, we designed a cooking project in which all the items they used in a day had to sum to less than $1.50.
Q: What has been one of your failures that has taught you something valuable?
Reese: Well something I have learned throughout my schoolwork is that communication and trust are key components of having an effective group. I have learned that not speaking up myself, not insisting on deadlines, and not following up have cost me in certain projects. Learning how to be an effective project leader is very important, and that is something that the Pioneer Leadership Program that I am a part of at the University of Denver is helping me with. I think being an introverted leader is something that is not really talked about much so that is a topic that I am trying to navigate right now.
What inspires you to be an activist? How did you get started in this work?
Reese: Family values have always been the main foundation for my activism work. The earliest activism event that I remember attending with my family was a protest to raise teachers’ wages. Ever since then I was hooked and decided to make activism work my hobby. Since my mom started ThinkPeace workshop, I have been moved particularly into exploring girls and women’s issues.
Q: What advice do you have for other young people who want to get involved in their communities or make a difference for the world?
Reese: I think that it is important to talk to young people about how they can use their passion to create change. Anything that you love to do or are good at, it is important to pursue that You never know what is going to light a fire in you. Everything can be applied to activism work, so everything you do in your field of interest is a drop in the bucket. My major at the University of Denver is International Studies with a minor in Leadership Studies and Emergent Digital Practices so I am basically trying to figure out a way use design to empower people across the globe.
Q: Since we celebrated Mother’s Day this month, could you tell us a little more about what your mother does and how she inspires the service work that you do?
Reese: My mom has spent her life advocating for peace and social justice and the ThinkPeace workshop is a beautiful representation of that for your girls. She has always been interested in speaking up and understanding global issues, and she wanted my sister and I to stand up for ourselves when things happened. She kind of saw how the world was changing and she wanted to take action and empower girls globally by creating a space to collaborate. The workshops are day camps or week long summer camps where 20 girls from around the world come and do everything from working on peacemaking, to art, self esteem, leadership and voice creating- we learn to empower ourselves to make change in the world. I have been a camper since it was made in 2009, and have now transitioned into more of an intern role. The camp is for ages 12-18 and being able to see the shift in confidence and empowerment as the girls get older and come back each year is really neat. The camp changes locations all the time; for the past couple years we have been in N.Y., but we have even had it in Germany! Being in an international hub allows us to visit a lot of service organizations and draw in inspiring speakers from around the area.
If I was a bird that needs feathers to fly higher, my mother would be my strongest feather.”- Dr. Jane Goodall
Reese is a shining example of how to turn the activities that you already love doing into projects that will better your community or the world. To learn more about the projects that influential young leaders like Reese are doing, visit the Roots & Shoots website. Educators and Roots & Shoots groups, you can invite Reese or another member of the NYLC to visit or Skype with your classroom/group to talk about their Roots & Shoots work and share tips for your next service campaign! Click here to learn more.
Reese acts with purpose, inspires her peers, and is hopeful and optimistic. In fact, she possess all of the skills and traits of a compassionate leader. Fostering these traits in young people is our way of working toward a better future — one where leaders from the playground to the boardroom make decisions that are good for people, other animals, and the environment. Read more about compassionate leadership skills and traits here.
Educators, we’ve designed a free, online course to support you as you grow compassionate leaders through service learning. Join the course.