20 March 2008
Shirley Massachusetts – Youth Venture Heaven
What happens after one, two and three teams launch from the same school or community? The idea of creating change tips and before you know it, you’ve got TWENTY THREE Youth Venture’s running with dozens more in the pipeline. Kathryn Lions, Youth Venture’s amazing champion, brought the YV opportunity to the kids she worked with as school librarian six years ago and today, she’s working with literally hundreds of kids throughout the town to launch and sustain Ventures. From lit magazines to skate parks, the kids of Shirley might very well be the most socially active town in America. I had the chance to speak to all 300 or so kids of Shirley Middle School and let me say, no social issue was too small (In the fifth grade session one girl raised the need for expanding the use of renewable energy sources and another girl brought up the use of endangered animal furs as clothes. Now you tell me this generation isn’t going to change the world. When I was in fifth grade my primary concerns were four square and lunch trades). I also got to meet some of our amazing Shirley teams.
There was the Rolled Up Paper, a group of fourth graders that act as editor, writer and photographer to produce a monthly newspaper dealing with issues in their elementary school. A recent edition had a young writing blowing the lid off talking during lunch under a pen name, of course.
Then there’s Nick and Molly, who started a Literary Magazine in their middle school so kids would have a place to publish their poems, stories, photographs and music lyrics. It was the first of its kind in Shirley.
I met the Skaters of Shirley, who are raising funds to build a town skate park, which will offer a safe, responsible place for kids to ride without damaging public property. They’re raised over $10,000 for the effort and are currently embroiled in a major PR and lobbying campaign to convince the town government that there needs should be met.
Finally, there’s Caitlin. Basically, she’s ma gurl. At age 10 she started Shirley Arts For All, an organization that raises funds for kids in Shirley who can’t afford the fees to be in plays. They’ve raised thousands of dollars to help fund those kids who would otherwise not be able to participate. Now fourteen, it’s clear in the way she thinks, writes and talks that Caitling understand just how remarkable this global movement is, and what it is capable of.
She spoke eloquently to her peers (which in and of itself is no easy task) about the incredible “power of not brute strength or money, but the power to be inspired and to empower others.” Indeed, that’s what’s at the heart of it – inspiration and a sense of empowerment that makes young people realize just how capable and influential they are. I wish I could fold her up and carry her across the country in my pocket! She’s a natural born leader and I am SO EXCITED to see where the future takes her…Rock on Caitlin!