Change Makers

Are YOU a change maker? Young people like you across the country are volunteering, acting as leaders and role models, advocating and making an impact in the lives of others. Read their stories below and tell us about how you are creating change for yourself and others!  

Featured Profiles

Click here to read the Change Maker profile on Matt

Matt: Connecting with and keeping traditional Native American culture alive

"My advice is to work hard, believe in yourself, and have fun doing it."

Click here to read the Change Maker profile on Alavi

Alavi: Adapting to a New Culture and Inspiring Youth

“As a new immigrant who could not speak English fluently, I was always quiet and tried to stay invisible.”

Click here to read Kendall's Change Maker profile

Kendall: Advocate for Children of Incarcerated Parents and other youth overcoming adversity

"What I've learned out of life is this: Forgiveness opens up your heart so it can receive more love."

Click here to read Kayanna's Change Maker profile

Kayanna: Reflections on National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence

“I was very eager to meet and converse with my peers as well as key leadership throughout the country. I think that it is very important to give folks that may not normally interact the opportunity to do so.”

Click here to view Alan's Change Maker profile

Alan: Reflections on National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence

"The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention is an epitome of what cities should be implementing to reach the needs of their own cities -- since not every city requires the same things."

Click here to read the Change Maker profile of Coloradas

Coloradas: Advocate for Native American Culture Preservation and Suicide Prevention

"My ancestors fought for me to have a way of life to live for. So I honor them by holding on to our language and tradition as much as possible."

Click here to read Abdalla's Change Maker profile

Abdalla: Non-Traditional Paths to Career Preparation

"My advice is to get involved with Year Up or a program like it."

Click here to read Citlali's Change Maker profile

Citlali: Giving Back to Her Community

"I hope more youth will take a close look at their communities and see what problems are bothering them and then fix them."

Click here to view JR's Change Maker profile

JR: Advocate for Youth Violence Prevention

“The key is to be positive and do positive things ... It’s hard at the beginning, but if you have people trying to help you and show you tools … then it’s worth a try and you won’t regret it.”

Click here to view Carlos's Change Maker profile

Carlos: Advocate for Youth Violence Prevention

“Don’t give up to the streets. Don’t give up to drugs. Go to school and do good and everything else will come to you. Take advantage of all the opportunities given to you.”

Click here to view Katie's Change Maker profile

Katie: Speaking Out About Substance Abuse and Recovery

"I understand how substance abuse can change a person and change really who they are… There are always people that you can talk to and there are always people that can help you."

Click here to view Justin's Change Maker profile

Justin: Creating Change Through Entrepreneurship and Mentorship

"It is foolish to believe that success can be achieved alone."

Click here to view Noah's Change Maker profile

Noah: Advocate for Teen Driver Safety

“If you know your passion and follow your dreams, you will make a positive difference in the world.”

Tristan: Advocate for Preventing Distracted Driving

“Change starts with one person and can grow really fast.”

Cortney

Cortney: Working on Creating Recovery-ready Communities

“There’s nothing special about me; if I can do it, anyone can. I encourage any young person struggling with addiction to not be afraid to ask for help.”

Carly and Sean

Carly and Sean: Volunteering with Older Adults in their Community

“We enjoy hearing about their life experiences. It’s a rewarding experience for both us and our older adult partners.”

Youth M.O.V.E. National

Youth M.O.V.E. National: Making a Difference through Youth-Adult Partnerships

“It’s important to come to the table with an open mind and valuing the other partner. Be flexible and actively seek win-win solutions, and allow yourself to be taught.”

Martand

Martand: Bringing Smiles to Kids in Hospitals

“We want to inspire kids from the community to help and let everyone know they can be involved.”

Jim

Jim: Residential Care Advocate

“Don’t give up on yourself and understand that no one can help you if you’re not willing to help yourself.”

Leroy

Leroy: Advocate for Child Welfare System Change

"People should remember that foster youth are human beings, not paperwork…Don’t give up on us."

Carrie

Carrie: Believes in the Power of Youth

“I believe in the power of youth. I believe in the importance of including young people in decisions that will impact them.”

Kenny

Kenny: Importance of Education

“My college experience has empowered me with knowledge so that I can be a successful artist and a successful student.”

Melanie

Melanie: Advice for a Successful Internship

“It is possible to have fun while working hard, no matter what field you work in!” 

Pablo

Pablo: Advocate for Undocumented Immigrant Youth

“Advocating for access to higher education for undocumented and underrepresented youth is my passion.”

Eugene

Eugene: Resilience

“Everyone meets a roadblock in life, but roadblocks are only installed to make you think and work harder than your usual, pushing you to excel well above your means.”

Kayla

Kayla: Youth-Adult Partnerships

"When I look back at my past experiences, it amazes me what a youth from South Central [LA] was able to accomplish. I enjoy giving other youth the same feeling."

Kie'Ja

Kie'Ja: Advocate for Teen Pregnancy Prevention

“Being an advocate for teen pregnancy prevention is an important part of my life. I have grown as an individual and I have been able to affect many people.”

Roberto and Clem

Roberto and Clem: Inclusive Youth Leadership

"What are ways that you help other people?"
"Inspiring them." 
-- Clem and Roberto talk about the impact of involvement with Special Olympics and inclusive youth leadership. 

Josh

Josh: Inclusion

"I’m trying my best to change misconceptions about gay people."

Alana

Alana: Teen Pregnancy Prevention Advocate

"Making a difference keeps me motivated to continue preventing teen pregnancy in my community."

Irene

Irene: Scholar and Advocate for Homeless Youth

“Education is power” is my motto. I’m on my way to being as successful as I hoped for and it was all because I had the opportunity to go to school, and the resources to stay in school. I plan to go so much further, too, because I'm tired of being homeless. 

Jaylynn

Jaylynn: Youth Intern and Mentor

"My goal is to...be the best role model that I can be for the tribe to show them that staying involved with the community is important for youth because it can have a major impact on their future and health."

Krista

Krista: Advocate for Athletes with Disabilities

"The word “disability” is not in the athletes' minds at all. We don’t see it as a disability. For myself, I see it as a unique ability."

Amanda

Amanda: Young Adult Advocacy

"I’ve learned to feel comfortable with who I am, and to speak up not only for myself, but for others."

Razilee

Razilee: AmeriCorp Member

“I wanted to participate in a different kind of journey where I could experience and get a better understanding of strengths and hardships of communities first hand.”

Janessa

Janessa: Transitioning to Adulthood

"I was inspired to pursue advocacy work because there are so many youth who just need the tools to succeed."

Hayley

Hayley: Youth Empowerment

"I was inspired to create MY LIFE...because there was really a lack of places that youth could share their voice, and make a positive difference in their lives and in the community."

Sixto

Sixto: Foster Care Advocacy

"Being part of this youth board turned my anger for the foster care system into passion. I had a story but my peers did, too. It became less about me and more about a group of youth who many people forget about."

Nicole

Nicole: Inspiring Other Youth

"I have always wanted to go back to places that I have been…and just talk to kids and tell them that…if you just use your voice and stay on track, your future will be brighter."

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"I’m nongender, which for me, means that I don't identify as either male or female."

Amy

Amy: Advocacy

"My internship was a life-changing experience. We invited members of Congress to come and listen to what we had to say and hear our recommendations for how to improve foster care through lawmaking. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.”

Emily

Emily: Foster Care

"I am able to lead by example so that other people see that this is what foster youth could be and that foster youth are able to make it through the system being resilient."

Greta

Greta: Community

"I owe the self-confidence to even apply for higher education to supportive adults…in my life."

Angel

Angel: Caring Adults

“There is always a way to make things better. Take the time to hear what youth have to say.”

LaRay

LaRay: Leadership

“A lot of people might think that you may not have good ideas because you're a teenager, but working hard makes a big difference as it shows [others] you have a voice and you are capable…”

Advocacy

  • Profiled on Disability.gov’s blog, Leah Katz-Hernandez advocates for youth with disabilities through her blog, “The Deaf Perspective,” and her work as the 2011 HSC Foundation Youth Transitions Fellow.
  • Join the conversation about how you and people in your community can work together to improve the lives of youth. 
  • This video includes the highlights from the week-long 2012 National Intertribal Youth Summit (NIYS), held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This event was attended by more than 160 youth representing nearly 50 tribes.
  • This podcast from the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth features Forrest Vest, a formerly homeless youth, discusses how he is working with a family friend to start a new foundation and how youth can be powerful advocates for change.
  • The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth (NFCY) asks youth workers to discuss the impact they have had on the lives of youth. Linda Mascarenas of Family and Youth Services in Stockton, CA, talks about a teen mother who became a paid employee of her youth program.

Bullying

  • Michelle saw the harmful effects of cyberbullying first-hand when rumors were spread about her high school friends through MySpace. Now, as a college student and intern with the Department of Education, she is researching states’ cyberbullying policies and the effect they can have on young people.
  • Radio stories created and developed by youth in which they discuss their experiences with bullying.
  • What prevents bullying? Whitney Dockrey, a 22-year-old senior at Georgetown University, thinks good friendships have the power. Learn more about Whitney’s experiences as she shares her story at a bullying prevention workshop by the Institute of Medicine. 

Community Service

  • Read the stories of youth who have created lasting, positive change by using creativity to address challenges they saw in their communities.

Disabilities

  • This public service announcement (PSA) features stories of real young people with disabilities who have been able to achieve their goals because of the positive support they received from caring adult mentors, such as parents, friends, employees, and teachers
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects the rights of children with disabilities and guarantees them free and appropriate access to education. Learn about a website, created by three seventh-grade students, that provides information about IDEA, including information for students with disabilities about their rights. 

Education

Employment

  • Brandon, a summer intern with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, describes his internship and how it influenced his personal and professional perspectives.
  • Jimmy, a recent high school graduate, talks about the opportunities he has had as a result of his participation in the Summer Jobs+ program.
  • This podcast features a young person discussing her experience with the Homeless Youth Alliance in San Francisco after she ran away from home as a teenager, and how she became an outreach counselor for the Alliance.
  • The Job Corps program has helped many young people just like you succeed and achieve their goals. Hear Job Corps graduates Chris, Mark, and Ramiro describe the impact that Job Corps has had on their lives.

LGBTQ

  • Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with students from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network to talk about their experiences with bullying and how to fix this problem. Students encouraged the Secretary to start collecting information about behavior toward the LGBT community through the Civil Rights Data Collection in order to identify the severity and scope of LGBT bullying and harassment across the country.

Mental Health

  • “I need help.” Those were the words that Jessica discovered would help her survive struggles with mental and physical illness. Jessica details the challenges she faced as a young person with bipolar disorder and how understanding her illness and reaching out to people who cared helped her succeed.
  • Jordan, a young person who, despite appearing to his friends to have it all, struggled with depression and a suicide attempt. Jordan is now sharing his message of hope and recovery in order to help other youth facing similar challenges.

Positive Youth Development

  • Xavier got into trouble with the law and was expelled from school for trying to make money selling drugs. Then he participated in YouthBuild AmeriCorps, turned his life around, and is now the chairman of a national council designed to increase college opportunities for other YouthBuild AmeriCorps graduates. Learn more about Xavier and how the YouthBuild AmeriCorps program has helped other young people from low-income families succeed. 

Runaway and Homelessness

Substance Abuse

Teen Dating Violence

Teen Driver Safety

  • Fourteen-year-old Hah’mari Watson of Sanford, Florida was named the winner of the Department of Transportation’s Distracted Driving Design Challenge, which invited teens to create an original icon with an anti-distracted driving message that could be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social networking sites.
  • Hear three young racecar drivers talk about the importance of safe driving.

Teen Pregnancy

  • When Tiara was a senior in high school, she wrote a script for a health class assignment about a high school couple dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. That script is now a short film that has 4 million views on YouTube.  Learn about Tiara’s movie and how it has helped start an important dialogue among young people about teen pregnancy.