Youth takes stand

Beth Rozacky

The high school youth of today are often accused of being a lazy and fickle bunch, and are frequently categorized as undisciplined and apathetic. They can be seen as slaves to celebrities, pop culture and fashion trends. However, when united behind a cause – be it how pop punk is so 2005, or how pink is the new black – they are a force to be reckoned with. When presented with the latest craze, they wield the ability to create an absolute frenzy in order to achieve ends. It is rare for the youngest age group to hold the most influence in the world, but Generation Y is making a fairly successful break for the title.

“I believe that the youth is very active these days,” Kailey Gursoy, sophomore, said. “We have to be. The world is in such a state right now, that it is everyone’s duty to pitch in and help.”

Defined as anyone born between 1979-1999, Generation Y is the first era of youngsters to grow up in a “Digital World.” Born with the privileges of Internet access and amazing feats of technology, they are putting their good fortune to use. On a whole, there have been surprising amounts of initiative and go-getter attitudes, somewhat lacking in the contemporaries of yesteryear. Generation Y is politically aware, globally connected and technologically able. It’s these qualities that have allowed Democratic Party opposed to conservative Republicans. This surge of action has the ability to shake modern politics to its core. On average, members of Generation Y are more willing to get involved with the political system and are less critical and suspicious of “the man” and the government than the Baby Boomers who preceded them.

Aside from the influence over the adults who currently run the world’s affairs, an impressive amount of work has been done by youth for the betterment of the planet. Student led organizations in schools, such as STAND, Junior Statesman of America, The Wolfpack student newspaper, the Invisible Children club, National Honor Society and many more, have taken action to provide a more assertive role for youth in society. However, a presumed surge of activism is met with cautious cynicism, also common in Generation Y.

“Some kids think that they are aware, but really have no idea,” Cody Alarcon, sophomore, said. “Girls nowadays think that being vegetarian for a month or two is epuivalent to being Superman.”

While a false sense of purpose can follow any trend, most are capitalizing on the positive aspects of this development. Some have taken the initiative to extend their activism outside the social sphere and into the environment.

“I am a religious recycler,” Gursoy said. “I also participate and volunteer with environmental club a lot. My favorite activity we were involved in was an Arbor Day tree planting at a park downtown. It was really rewarding, especially to observe a holiday that is ignored by most people.”

This flood of activism is mirrored in the popularity of online groups that address issues affecting the world. Facebook hosts groups like To Write Love On Her Arms, Save Darfur, the Free Hugs Campaign, etc. that are supported and even maintained by young activists.

“I joined a few facebook groups,” Will Gravely, junior, said. “[One] to support our troops, a group against smoking, an anti-animal abuse group, a cancer benefit group, and a Christian group.”

With opportunities for activism so accessible, it’s easy to see why so many people can get involved. Youtube even sponsors a “Vlogging 4 Awesome” campaign where activists can take over the YouTube homepage for a day, and promote their favorite causes in a video-blog (vlog) format. By utilizing social networking sites and Internet hotspots, these issues and movements are picked up by youth more than any other age group.

With the speed at which information is engineered and shared, it isn’t shocking that this generation is more in tune with the issues affecting today’s world. The ability to recognize these issues and learn about things on a more global scale has developed the acknowledgment of worldwide citizenship. This has led to a rise in youth involvement in certain causes and charities. It also helps that awareness is “back in style”. Brands like Livestrong, (Product)Red, and Tom’s Shoes support various charities and are popular with younger crowds.

“I only buy clothes from second-hand stores and from manufacturers that maintain good working conditions and benefits for their workers,” Gursoy said. “It takes quite a bit of research and patience to make sure the items I am buying are fair trade, but buying second-hand also reduces the immense waste produced by the garment industry.”

These youth driven trends like thrift store shopping and “going-green” support an environmentally conscience attitude. This more involved effort in bettering the world is born from the desire to better oneself. It takes work, dedication, and devotion to truly make a difference in any community. Awareness could be the first of many positive changes to come for today’s society.  With youth spearheading the campaign, the future looks bright.