If you ask the average adult whether they’re concerned about the next generation they’ll probably say yes. As soon as you cross that threshold into your 30’s you instinctively start shaking your head when you see young people doing anything questionable. You also start asking, “Were we like that when we were teenagers?” To which the answer is, “Yes.” But not all teenagers fit the stereotype. There are teens all over the world “creating their world” and doing amazing things.
Time Magazine’s Most Influential Teens list provides optimism that the world will be in good hands in the next ten to twenty years. While the list includes celebrities and athletes, there are a number of creators who stand out for their ability to develop new products or solve problems. Some of the young influencers who stand out include 13-year old entrepreneur Moziah Bridges who owns a $200,000 apparel company after a deal on Shark Tank and licensing agreements with Neiman Marcus and Cole Haan; Flynn McGarry who started a supper club at 11 years old and is now a restaurateur at 16; the Daily Dot founder William Turton; 17-year old Olivia Hallisey who developed a new way of testing for the Ebola virus that doesn’t require electricity or refrigeration; world renowned activist Malala Yousafzai; 14-year old clock maker Ahmed Mohamed; and 18-year old financial analyst Tiffany Zhong.
Looking at this list makes you ask a few questions. Is this kind of talent born or bred? And how come more teens aren’t achieving this kind of success?
While we can assume that some kids are just “special”, we can also say that we haven’t created a culture that makes these kinds of achievements more attainable. Unfortunately, our collective values show that we don’t prioritize breeding a generation of creators and problem solvers; we value training employees.
There are two groups that play a vital role in developing a “creator culture” among our children and teens- parents and schools. Many of us have heard the saying, “Education starts in the home” but it’s not always put into practice. As parents we are sometimes guilty of outsourcing the education of our children to the school system instead of acting as guidance counselors, identifying our children’s aptitudes from an early age and steering them in the right direction. Once in the school system we lump kids into programs that prepare them for the status quo.
This is why initiatives like We Day are so important. They teach young people to be engaged in the world around them. While it’s true that not every kid is going to be a world changer, that employees and everyday jobs are needed to keep the world going, and that our children may very well enjoy these jobs, everyone has the potential to be a world changer and we can benefit by at least creating a culture where we learn to use our skills to serve others outside of the 9 to 5 structure.
A good place to start would be to incorporate mandatory real world projects throughout high school where students learn to solve real world problems. Partner with social service agencies and homeless shelters on projects that serve the public so we’re not only shaping minds, but shaping hearts. Partner with entrepreneurial organizations so our kids could develop social enterprises that serve communities and create opportunities for others. Our children may never make Time’s Most Influential Teens list, but we can certainly teach them to influence the world around them, even if it’s just their community. This is what SHIFTER Magazine is all about.
While implementing these kinds of programs would cost money, the investment required would pale in comparison to the benefits of fostering a culture of creating and serving others. Imagine what kind of engaged parents these students would become, bringing this creator culture to homes across our cities. It’s only a matter of taking the time to assess our collective values and really determining what kind of world we want. Once we have our answer the only thing left to do is instill those values in the next generation, both at home and at school.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. -Nelson Mandela