A Teenager’s Guide: How to Be an Activist

Student Life

After reading nearly a dozen news articles, I thrust myself onto my bed. As frustration consumes me, I rub my eyes with my hands for a few moments. Thoughts race around in my head uncontrollably. How can I help make a difference? How can these issues be resolved? Do I even have the ability to make a change? My experience is not unique. Many teenagers feel as if they have no say in problems that affect their futures. Even though getting involved in activism as a teenager seems intangible, it will ensure that youth have a voice.

Find a cause you care about

Ever since I could formulate sentences, I have wanted to make a difference. But, I struggled with finding where I would be able to make the largest impact. After finishing all of my homework, I quickly open up my computer and go to The New York Times. The countless number of articles greet me immediately. Curiosity runs through my veins as soon as I read an article headline with the words "period poverty." My eyes travel across the page as fast as possible, and shortly, I finish reading. This, I think to myself, is a problem I want to help eliminate.

A few months later, I founded my own initiative to help eradicate period poverty, which is, in simple terms, not being able to access period products like pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. One news article changed everything for me.

When trying to think of ways to better your community, you may become overwhelmed. Reviewing news articles is an effective way to learn about issues you have never been introduced to.

Reach out to your representatives

Contacting your representative will allow you to have an influence on the decisions they make. Making phone calls and sending emails are great ways to get in touch with your representatives. Initially, the idea of communicating with your representatives may be nerve-wracking. However, it is important to understand that your representatives want to hear from members of their community. There are lists of assembly members and senators online that can help you find out who you should get in touch with.

In my efforts to achieve menstrual equality and eliminate period poverty, I decided to contact my local legislators about a bill that would provide free period products in public schools and agencies in my state. I was able to explain my thoughts to them easily, and it left me feeling heard and understood.

Talk to friends and family

It is very likely that your family and friends are also passionate about the same topics that you are. Having discussions will give you the opportunity to voice your beliefs and listen to someone else's thoughts. I always enjoy having discussions with family members about politics, global matters, and social issues, among several others. Their stance on the issue at hand is unimportant. Rich conversations are key to having a strong democracy.

Have attainable goals

To make a change in your community, you do not need to create a non-profit organization or a national initiative. Volunteering for a few hours at an organization that is working towards rectifying an issue you care about will make an impact. Making a social media page dedicated to informing others about a specific problem will make an impact. Telling your classmates, friends, families, and community members about a matter you are passionate about will make an impact. Donating a few cans of food to your local homeless shelter will make an impact. No matter how small or big the change you make is, you are still using your time, focus, and energy to better the world. That is activism.

Start small

Before beginning to take action in your community, having the ability to start in a comfortable environment is an excellent choice. For instance, creating a club or chapter will give you the chance to recruit club members, practice being a leader, and most importantly, understand what the best way is to fight for your cause. Additionally, if you decide to expand your club into an initiative or organization, you will then have a group of people from your club that will be willing to help you.

It takes a diligent leader to tackle prominent issues, especially at a young age. But, it is certainly achievable, as long as you remain patient with yourself and understand that activism can be whatever you want it to be. By reading this article and having an interest in getting involved in your community, you have taken the first step towards becoming an activist.

Sophene Avedissian
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Sophene Avedissian is a freshman at Westridge School for Girls. She is the author of Stand Tall, a book that highlights women's rights issues, an editor for Polyphony Lit, and a Los Angeles Times High School Insider. During her free time, Sophene enjoys reading, playing soccer, and spending time with family and friends.