Reasons for Hope Now and Anytime From Young Leaders

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Our Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) are helpers. As a part of Roots & Shoots, their existing interest and passion for helping in their communities is amplified through their connections to each other and to their world-changing projects. During the COVID-19 crisis, we asked them to share their thoughts, advice, and reflections. Read more below to get inspired learning how our youth leaders take on crisis and give back.


Mahir Rahman

Mahir Rahman, NYLC 2020

Hello, my name is Mahir Rahman, and I am a part of the Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council (#RSNYLC). Right now, it is essential to bring ourselves back into the light that has been hidden throughout the past weeks.

Although it feels as though my neighborhood is veiled in darkness, with schools being closed down and families losing their homes, there are still many things that inspire and encourage me. What encourages me is the development of self-appreciation within our community. What inspires me is self-expression within my community.

One thing I try to do is to not let myself rely on sensationalized media, which can cause anxiety and spread misinformation. Instead, I like to focus on growing my individuality. Similar to others, I enjoy doing makeup. The technique, the colors, and the results are what make me hopeful. Throughout these chaotic times, I’ve learned to not only inspire myself with makeup but to gain a genuine understanding of it.

My advice: Do something that excites you and unleashes your authentic self. In essence, be true to yourself. 



Samyukta Iyer, NYLC 2020

Samyukta Iyer

Hi, my name is Samyukta Iyer, and I’m part of the Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council (#RSNYLC). As a community leader and student, this situation has been pretty rough, and truly a global issue. Here are some ideas and thoughts that have helped me stay positive, remain active and involved, and rest mindfully.

  1. Be considerate of how much social media, news, and other content you consume. It’s good to be informed (always finding credible sources), but it is important to focus on what is relevant and necessary for you. The constant exposure to coverage of this situation can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.  
  2. Take action in whatever way you can. Whether it’s sewing masks for healthcare workers, tutoring students who are learning from home, or buying groceries for your elderly neighbors, identify the ways you feel comfortable and are able to help out to improve the situation in your area. This will help people around you while also helping you with any feelings of hopelessness. 
  3. Seek out the positive. With all the negativity and loneliness that comes with “social distancing” isolation, remind yourself regularly of all the good that still remains in the world. Take time to reflect and focus on whoever you’re with or the people you’re still connected to virtually (like in our Roots & Shoots community!), whether it’s a family member, roommate, or yourself. If we focus on what’s good, we’ll all come out of this stronger than before. 

I hope these tips bring you some peace and happiness wherever you are right now. Stay safe and healthy, and we’ll make it through together!


More from Roots & Shoots

For a chance to be a part of the Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council next year, learn more here!

Want ideas for things to do at home and other ways to get involved? Read this piece by Kamilah Martin, vp of Roots & Shoots USA here.


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About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Associate Director of Communications & Partnerships at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Jane Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission to create a better world for all by protecting the interconnections between people, other animals, and the environment. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is currently a Master's of Science Candidate for Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on Environmental Justice. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, now a D.C. resident, she has a varied background including nearly 10 years of expert communications and digital marketing in the social and environmental non-profit sector. Her intersectional approach to this work has been shaped by a holistic world-view, having traveled to Madagascar and Ecuador for conservation research projects, leading communications for youth social justice filmmaking programs, and as a part of several professional groups advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in environmental spaces. With skills ranging from conservation fieldwork, policy and advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, art, digital media, and design, Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in the magic of storytelling to change hearts and minds. Through growing understanding, empathy, and justice, she is igniting positive change to create that better, more equitable world, every day.