UPDATE [3-11-20]: In light of current events surrounding the coronavirus, The Citizen has decided to postpone this event. Please stay tuned for updates on rescheduling.
If there is one glimmer of hope in the dire, dystopian times through which we’re living, it is this:
Today’s young people will invariably save us all.
While Boomers kvetch, Generation Z, those born roughly between the mid-’90s and 2012, is putting its head down and getting to work, in fields as far-ranging as climate change, gun-sense, social justice, immigration, the arts and more.
Their potential is limitless, but it can hinge on, and be amplified by, access to networks of supportive, encouraging peers and mentors.
That’s why on Saturday, April 18, from noon to 2pm, The Citizen is bringing six of the country’s foremost youth leaders to Philly to speak to and inspire 100-plus of our city’s teens, to show them that their voice matters, and that—whatever their backgrounds may be—they can make a difference. The event is called Citizen Teen, and it will be held at The Hive in Center City.
It’s open to any and all area high schoolers, so send your children, your students, your neighbors, the young person in your community who you know will be key to Philadelphia’s future—which is to say, all of them.
Here’s who they’ll hear from:
Founder of HAPPY (Healthy, Active, Positive, Purposeful, Youth)
“My life has been a testament to the fact that you can really create whatever reality and path you want,” says Thomas, the youngest graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her nonprofit has touched the lives of more than 40,000 children worldwide; she’s been recognized for her work by Michelle Obama, who had Haile in her personal box at a State of the Union address, and been mentored by Deepak Chopra. Her first book, Living Lively, comes out in May.
Founder of the youth climate initiative Zero Hour
Margolin’s book, Youth To Power: Your Voice and How To Use It, will debut in June, with a foreword by Greta Thunberg. Among other accolades, Margolin has been one of Teen Vogue’s “21 Under 21” girls changing the world, one of People’s “25 women changing the world,” and one of The Today Show’s 18 under 18 Groundbreakers.
Founder of The Mental Elephant
“Life is hard, no matter what position you’re in, no matter what your skin tone is or how much money you have or where you live, but you have to find the balance in your life—the good and the bad—and start building connections around you” says Bryant, who’s been interviewed by Gayle King about the creation of her nonprofit devoted to de-stigmatizing mental health issues and getting youth the resources they need. She is also the recipient of the NAACP Black Excellence; Black Girl Magic Award.
She’s psyched to be coming to Philly for the event. “I love talking to people and letting them know that they’re not alone, and that help is out there for them,” she says.
Eva Maria Lewis
Founder of The I Project and Youth For Black Lives
“I want to bring people with me,” Lewis says. Growing up surrounded by gun violence in the South Side of Chicago, Lewis formed her nonprofits in reaction to the racism and inequity she saw around her every day. Gun violence may be the buzz phrase that people latch onto when they think of her, but for Lewis, that’s merely an entry point for talking about larger systemic problems in our country. “I’ve learned to be unapologetic about what I see, because if we don’t say anything, it will continue to happen, continue to traumatize disenfranchised people, and continue to oppress society.”
Director of Be Strong
Estimon is eager to fuel connections and community. Having immigrated from Haiti to Florida at age six, he experienced bullying and isolation for years before finding the capacity to channel his journey into helping others. He formed Be Strong to fight bullying and prevent suicide. If his story rings a bell, that could be because it reached over 20 million people when he was featured on CBS.
Estimon believes firmly in the power of community. “I really believe that the quality of your relationships will dictate the quality of your life,” he says of his drive to bring people together.
“Everyone has at least one friend,” says Greisy Hernandez. “So start by having one conversation about something you care about. And then maybe they’ll ask more questions and that will lead you to research something and then both of you can keep each other accountable in some way.”
Founder of @LasChicasChulas
Hernandez’s @LasChicasChulas is a collective that’s focused on amplifying the voices of Gen Z Latinas around issues of mental health, immigrant rights and women’s rights. She knows that making a difference can feel daunting, but that it all starts with making connections.
“It can feel so so overwhelming to think Oh my gosh, I want to bring together 500 people to just come out and support this issue that matters to me,” she says. “But how are you going to inspire 500 people to do something if you can’t inspire one person? So use the people that are there to support you; everyone has at least one friend, so start by having one conversation about something you care about. And then maybe they’ll ask more questions and that will lead you to research something and then both of you can keep each other accountable in some way.”
There will be games. There will be vegetarian lunch. There will be amazing goodie bags, serious inspiration, and so much more. The event is free, though online registration is required and on a first-come basis. And, of course, Citizen Teen is exclusively for high school students.