Life is not a dress rehearsal. Stop practicing what you're going to do and just go do it. --Marilyn Grey

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what youve got to say, and say it hot. --D. H. Lawrence

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. --Carl W. Buechne

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. --Winston Churchill

A passive and ignorant citizenry will never create a sustainable world. --Andrew Gaines

Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door. --Kyle Chandler

Youth Leadership examples

AllisonMy name is Allison Boyer and I have been trying to save the orangutans since the second grade through fundraising and spreading the word about palm oil. My most recent fundraiser campaign is my non profit Purses for Primates. I collect gently used purses to re-sell at purse parties, and donate all the proceeds to Orangutan Outreach. So far I have raised over 9,000 and hope to raise more in the future. 

My strengths are talking to people in my community for when I need help with my project, and telling people about my project and why it is important. 

My weakness is keeping up consistent fundraising events. 

Communication skills, educating the public in a way that doesn't turn them away from the cause, finding a product that has staying power. 

The orangutans are so much like ourselves, and if we don't do something soon they will be gone. Since I'm over here in the US, I saw fundraising as one of the biggest things I could do for them.  

Support from my family and volunteers who help me with this cause. 

Richard Zimmerman, he is extremely dedicated to saving the orangutans. He is always very supportive of my fundraising events.

Even though some people may not agree with your cause, there are always someone out there who will listen to you about your cause. You just have to keep trying and not give up when you hit small obstacles. 

Having purse parties of their Own, or telling others about the orangutans plight, and how they can help. 


HI, I am Emily Wolverton. In high school I was really involved with Student Council. Through that organization, I was involved in several projects like mentoring elementary kids, creating school clean-up projects, and more. My biggest project was when I organized a leadership summit for student councils from 15 schools around my area where everyone shared their best school activities and service projects. I was inspired to put this summit together because I knew it would connect students around Colorado and would be a great way to improve all of our schools. Aside from that, I was involved in National Honor Society and did a lot of community service work with that club. I was also the secretary for a service club called ASTRA in which we did community service work as well.

One of my weaknesses as a leader is that I have a thin skin and take things personally. When I am in charge of something, I take that job very seriously and feel that the outcome of that project reflects on me, so I am not the best at taking criticism because I take the information as a slam on myself. My greatest strength as a leader is that I am not afraid to work hard. I have found that being a leader does not mean you get the best job, it means that you are responsible for the outcome of the project and therefore must be willing to work extra hours to get the job done.

I really used my communication and organization skills to carry out the summit. I had to contact student council advisors from all the schools I invited and I had to clearly explain the summit in a way that convinced the advisors it would be worthwhile to attend for their students. I also had to be very organized to set up a schedule and to prepare enough materials for everybody.

I am a strong believer in the phrase, “it is not necessarily what you know, but instead who you know.” By connecting student leaders around my state, I hope to provide relationships that will benefit all the students who attended the summit. By sharing the success and failures each student council had experienced, I also hoped to improve the activities in each school represented and encourage them to get more involved with their communities.

After setbacks, my supporters such as my teachers, friends, and parents are always very helpful. Also, I like to consider each obstacle a chance to make my project better rather than a reason to quit. When putting together the summit, no advisors responded the first time I tried to put it together. However, this taught me that I was not “selling” my cause enough. I learned that I needed to make my project more exciting and seem like something schools would not want to miss. I know it is really tough to look at obstacles that way, but they really are fantastic learning experiences. Plus, it’s a great way to show that you can overcome challenges in a positive way.

It may sound cheesy, but my parents are my heroes. Together, they make the perfect team. My dad is always encouraging and optimistic; he always encourages me to dream big. My mom is more realistic, but she is always on top of things. She is a big fan in always being prepared and getting things done quickly and effectively. My parents complement each other well and always support each other as well as myself. I admire their teamwork and communication. They are some of the hardest working people I know, and they are aware of their priorities. They choose the hard right over the easy wrong, and they respect other people even when they disagree with them. They are good communicators, and when they find something they are passionate about, they commit to it. Obviously, my parents have shaped the person I am today, and I am so glad I was born to these two incredible people.

My advice to myself when I was first starting and to any young person just starting is to be confident. I had challenges with adults taking me seriously, but I think it was because I was unsure of myself. If you are confident about your project, people will respect your leadership.

My project mostly just involved my area, so Student Council students around Colorado could support my efforts by asking their advisors to allow them to attend the summit next year. Other students who like the idea of connecting with other student leaders around them could also organize a summit in their area. If anyone is interested in doing so, feel free to email me with any questions at


KatyMy name is Katy Butler. I am 18 years old and from Ann Arbor Michigan. For the past three years I have been working in anti-bullying activist and LGBT advocacy.
In November of 2011, I worked with Equality Michigan to start a petition on to remove offensive language incorporated in Michigan’s anti-bullying bill. 56,000 (+) signatures later it was removed.
Also through I asked the Motion Picture Association of America to change the rating of BULLY from R to PG13. Half a million signatures, support from millions, including celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Justin Bieber, pressured the MPAA to finally give BULLY the rating it deserved so kids across the country could see this inspirational film. I’ve worked with representative Mike Honda in Washington D.C. to create a national anti-bullying law, by attending the national anti- bullying caucus’ and in the fall I will be interning in his office. A year ago I asked President Obama to wear purple on Friday October 19th, GLAAD’s Spirit Day, to show support for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) suicide awareness and prevention. I am currently working at The Bully Project, the outreach group that stemmed from the documentary film BULLY, and interning at GLAAD in New York City.

My greatest weakness is not knowing when I need a break. The work I do is so demanding, I need to do a better job of taking care of myself so I don’t burn out. I need to realize when I should take a step back and just get a few more hours of sleep.

My greatest strength is having so much passion for not only the causes I support and advocate for but also passion for the actual work I do. I love going up to the capital and talking to my legislatures about something I believe in, writing about my story for a news outlet, or having a conversation with a middle school class about their ideas for change.

When I was in middle school I was bullied because I liked a girl. Once I changed schools made new friends and came out to my family I had the strength to decide to take a stand. It’s not just my story that fuels me every day though, it’s the stories of the millions of people who have supported my campaigns. I love seeing the impact I can have on the world.

Seeing how much progress society still has to make pushes me to continue my work even if I’m not in the best place. Looking at how much I could be doing really makes me want to get up and do it!
The support I have from my friends and family are so important in the work I do. The setbacks and even the positive things can be draining and their love and encouragement enables me to stay focused and motivated.

Emily Dievendorf, Policy Director at Equality Michigan. She has been my mentor for a few years now and she is always there to support me and provide advice in every aspect of my life. She sets a great example for me and anyone else who wants to get involved in activism.

Throughout my work in activism, my mentor taught me- by example- that one of the most real and effective ways to create change is to simply be yourself and be proud of who you are. I would have told myself that just being me and not letting anyone else tell me who I should be can really make a difference in my life, in other people’s lives and in the world.

The best thing any young person can do is, like I said, be true to who they really are and that will be a catalyst for change. Starting a GSA or an anti-bullying group in your school is a great way to contribute to my work.

Engaging your community and educating your peers by letting your friends know what kind of language and behavior is and is not okay is a great way to make a lasting and important change in your life, your friends lives and in the lives of those that language or behavior might be harmful to.


KatieMy name is Katie and I am an 18 year-old from NJ. I worked with kids in my community to teach them about hunger - what it is, who it affects and how they can help. I used the website, a trivia website run through the UN World Food Program, to give the kids an outlet to serve the hungry without costing them any money. I brought weekly hunger facts to elementary school kids and gave presentations at my school. The group on FreeRice, Monty NJ Kids, has raised over 1 million grains of rice and has over 120 members. The aim of the project was to make thinking about others a daily part of kids' lives as well as giving them a way to make a difference that was fun. 

My greatest strengths as a leader are my compassion and reliability. Adults and my peers often come to me with their problems and value my advice. They know they can count on me to get the job done and that is why they are willing to look to me as a leader. I lead people by being loved, not feared. By being a friend to as many people as possible and looking out for everyone else before myself, I gain their trust and respect. My greatest weakness is probably time management. I don't have any trouble procrastinating and sometimes it can catch up with me. I still get things done, but I sometimes stress out when it gets close to the deadline.

To educate an affluent community about hunger, I had to use powers of persuasion, publicity and passion. It is difficult to get people of any age, but especially kids, to care about a problem that they cannot see. I had to use different methods of media to reach the families and show them how the problem of hunger affects their own lives. I used video, the internet, social media, the newspaper and many other mediums to get the message out about hunger and FreeRice. If the messenger is passionate, people are more likely to pay attention, so it is very important to be completely dedicated to one's cause.

I have grown up doing service camps during the summer called ServiceworX and JusticeworX. Through those programs, I was exposed to poverty in areas close to home, across the country and internationally. My experiences with the people in poverty and seeing how their humanity and dignity are threatened by a lack of resources have upset me and called me to action. Every human life is so important and each person deserves what they need to live. Just one example of that is food. Hunger was one problem that any person who's ever had a grumbling belly could relate to, and I thought it would be the best issue to introduce to children at a young age.

After a setback in any situation, my family, friends and my faith are what keep me going. The people I surround myself with are the ones that give me the confidence to get through whatever struggle I am facing and they help me surpass my obstacles. My faith is also a huge source of perseverance because I feel I have a higher purpose to my goals. 

I have a lot of people to look up to in my life, but one that other people could relate to is Ellen Degeneres. Her show is a constant reminder to not take myself to seriously, to love with all my heart and to dance on a daily basis. She is the kind of person that can make anyone feel good and always has a smile on her face. She has helped so many people and has a beautiful outlook on life that brightens my days and motivates me to keep working for others.

Advice I would give to myself or any young person is stay calm. Sometimes things get overwhelming and you just feel like giving up, but even the largest of problems are probably minuscule when put in perspective. When you're going through something difficult, the best way to figure out what to do is to step back, take a deep breath, put on some soothing music and just calm down. This can avoid rash decisions and help to keep your sanity intact. 

If anyone wants to contribute to the fight against hunger or my specific project, they can create an account on and then join the group Monty NJ Kids. Every time you log on, you should go to the group first, then click "Play" so all the rice you earn with your correct answers is credited to the group. Other ways to help include holding food drives, volunteering at soup kitchens or just educating oneself about issues of hunger and poverty. 


LeahI'm Leah, a current student at Tufts University. I've been interested in activism my entire life, and currently work toward my twin interests of anti-colonial politics in Western-Middle Eastern relations and progressive politics here at home. I worked on a number of service projects in high school mostly focused on homelessness and local environmental issues, but my largest project was a two girl fight against a piece of local legislation. A friend and I started Stand Up Against the MoCo curfew to push for progressive and effective crime legislation, and together we crushed an initially popular youth curfew bill that had problematic elements of racial profiling and socioeconomic discrimination  At college I've worked on political campaigns, and my primary advocacy area is pushing for better policies and resources with Tufts Action for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP).

I possess incredible stamina, something that made me a hyperactive and probably difficult child but is by far my greatest asset as an activist. That translates into my speech - I'm an incredible fast talker - but also becomes a huge impediment. I work well with others who have penchant for verbal sparring over issues, enthusiastic brainstorming sessions, and rapid commands, but I definitely miss out on the skills of slower and less energetic, but no less intelligent, talkers and thinkers. It can also make me intimidating to those just joining the movement, which is something I need to be cognizant of.

I've been constantly surprised by how often seemingly domestic or life skills are an asset. I'm a whiz at excel, which has been a help on numerous occasions, and assets like first aid certification, schmoozing skills, and organization have been huge. Beyond that, skills I have worked to cultivate have been a plus, including a passionate writing style and oratory skills.

My entire political view was shaped by my upbringing - progressive politics have been with me wince childhood - but the issues are those that I find more egregious or those that have harmed those in my personal life. While I am not a survivor of sexual assault, many of my closest friends have been harmed in deep and irreversible ways by sexual assault and, more broadly, by the prevalence of rape culture. There is something uniquely infuriating about an issue having effecting the people you are closest to.

Having compassionate and similarly politically driven friends acts as an amazing safety net. They understand the emotional toll of activism and offer incredible guidance.

So many great women and men... for now I'll say Howard Zinn. Part historian, part activist, part visionary, he envisioned and carried out a movement within American historiography that shifted the focus from the great and powerful to the incredible feats, movements, and lifetimes of those Americans usually forgotten by history. He proved that politics as well as history should be radical.

Take condescension as a complement. If someone condescends to you, especially if they use your age/gender/race/sexual orientation or anything as as a vehicle, it is likely because they feel threatened. That means your activism is working.

Always be sure to actively recruit and involve your peers. An elitist grassroots movement won't make it anywhere. Create volunteer roles that match many ability levels so anyone sympathetic to the movement can kick in.

LaurelMy name is Laurel Watkins and I have been working with Jane Goodall’s Roots&Shoots program for ten years, since I first joined in the third grade.  I have done a variety of projects during my time with Roots&Shoots, however, my favorite projects have involved working with children to build sustainability programs at their schools.

I believe that my greatest strength is a passion for the projects I work on.  I can also be incredibly stubborn and, although this is often deemed a weakness, I find that when implemented correctly it can serve as a great advantage.  I feel that one of my biggest weaknesses is difficulty delegating.  While I enjoy incorporating others’ ideas into a project, I find it challenging to allow colleagues to participate in the work.
I find that my best skill in furthering my cause is relating myself to the people that I work with.  I especially enjoy working with young people who are starting Roots&Shoots at the same age I did.  This is special to me because I can both educate and empower children.  I try to lead by example, proving to them that they can make a difference regardless of their age.
While I’ve worked on myriad projects, my main goal has always been to educate and empower youth.  I feel that this is the most important issue because when young people are both educated and empowered they can continue on to find their own issues to fight for.  I especially enjoy working with elementary school kids because I feel that they both have the most potential and are the most unheard.
Whenever I encounter a setback in a project, and it can happen rather frequently, I try to look back at two things.  First, I try to remember the successful projects that I have already completed, which reminds me why I do the work that I do.  Secondly, I remember why I began that particular project.  Something made me passionate at the beginning of the project and once I regain that passion, continuing is no problem.
I don’t necessarily feel that I have a single hero in my life.  I find that often times the truer heroes are less glorified.  That being said, Dr. Jane Goodall is a huge inspiration to me.  She was the first person to ever tell me that I could make a difference even though I was young. I cannot say with any certainty that I would be where I am today without her.  I also admire a young girl whom I had the opportunity to work with a few years ago.  She was incredibly passionate and made huge improvements at her elementary school as a third grader.  Although she is not yet famous, her drive inspires me.
If I were able to tell myself what I know now, the main thing that I would stress is that it is okay to seek help when a project becomes difficult.  Chances are, if you’re starting a new project, someone somewhere has hit the same roadblocks as as you and may be able to offer some advice.
The best thing that any young person can do is stay educated and involved and make the changes that they want to see in the world.