“Our children are our future.” Politicians have been saying it for centuries, but today’s children are taking the future into their own hands. They are driving change by using their organizational skills, social media and knowledge of the issues facing their communities, the nation and the world.
Children who learn to advocate for social issues are practicing valuable skills that promote academic and workplace success, as well. They are collaborating, problem-solving and communicating. They are learning to use their voices and preparing to serve as responsible citizens, ready to be informed voters and active members of their communities.
7 Ways Students Can Raise Awareness About Social Issues
Many of the laws passed in state capitols and in Washington, D.C., affect children. Education, health care, child care, the environment, family income and taxes, and many other social issues are always on the policy table. Children are learning to connect the dots between their own lives and the legislation that their elected officials are considering. They’re also seeing needs in their communities that they can impact, helping families through difficult times.
Kids might not be able to vote, but they can use many creative ways to launch awareness campaigns and make their voices heard.
- Social Media: Today’s children are expert consumers of social media. They have mastered it for making friendships and sharing trends. They can use that same comfort with social media platforms to drive change. They can sign and create online petitions about issues that matter to them. They can create and share videos that explain or bring attention to the topic. Using hashtags and slogans, they can build recognition and demonstrate groundswells of support for their causes. Even creating a viral meme or video can get people to pay attention to the message. Crowdfunding websites empower students to raise money and teach them to sharpen their messaging to a point that convinces potential donors to give money.
- Blogging or Articles: Students can easily create blogs devoted to their causes. By writing explanations and arguments for or against an issue, they are building their writing and communications skills. Blogs serve as forums where people debate about social issues and build communities of supporters. As children use blogs to attract adherents, they can solicit others to write guest blog posts, to broaden the range of opinions and arguments heard in a debate. Blogs are valuable platforms for connecting with other websites and resources where readers can learn more, so they can become informed participants in a growing community of support for an important cause.
- Organize an Educational Meeting or Event: Meetings and events help people become passionate about a cause and, through gatherings, see that they’re not alone. They interact with like-minded people and understand that they are part of a movement. Children who organize meetings and events are calling on a wide range of skills. They must schedule a venue or online platform, invite speakers, publicize the event and write presentations. The best events bring people together to discuss the issue and share their ideas for reaching lawmakers and making progress. By organizing events, students can expand their audience by streaming live events online and inviting media coverage. Events also are valuable ways to raise funds from supporters eager to contribute to a cause that matters to them. All kinds of gatherings, including rallies, marches, 5K runs, dances and food drives, can bring attention to a cause.
- Write to Politicians: Even though children can’t vote, they are still the constituents of their elected officials. When kids write letters to lawmakers, they are sharing thoughts that influence how their elected officials vote and set their priorities. Kids who learn to write to politicians build their self-confidence and their communications skills. How do they find the names of their elected officials? They can find their congressional representative at house.gov/representatives and their U.S. senators at senate.gov. It’s important to remember that legislators in statehouses and senates also pass laws that affect the lives of children, while local officials such as mayors, city council members, and township and borough supervisors create the policies that keep their hometowns safe and vibrant. Letters to elected officials should be polite and straightforward. Introduce yourself, say where you live, and state the issue you’re writing about and why it matters to you and your family.
- Contact Local Media: Look for opportunities to raise awareness across traditional media platforms — newspapers, TV stations and radio. Write an advisory informing the media where and when you’re holding an event they can cover, and prepare handouts that explain the issue and why it matters. Create a “photo op” with interesting visuals that TV reporters and photographers can shoot. You can also watch for opportunities to localize a national story. For instance, if you want to improve conditions for homeless people in your community, call the media when there’s a big story in the national news about a clash at a homeless encampment. Talk about the work you’ve done to change local laws to provide shelters for the homeless and create affordable housing in the community.
- Distribute Handouts: Most people have a short attention span these days, but they will make time to learn about an issue that sounds interesting. A well-written handout such as a brochure or flyer can help people learn about your topic. Write short, attention-grabbing headlines and subheadings. Open with a summary of the subject and why it matters. Use bullet points to present your arguments in short, concise fashion. Insert photos or artwork for visual interest and to illustrate your point. Include website addresses for learning more and action steps, such as writing to elected officials or donating to the cause, that readers can take to help.
- Organize a Volunteer Project: Political issues get a lot of attention, but they can be hard for kids to break into, which can be discouraging. For immediate, tangible impact, kids can look around their neighborhoods and find a need to fill. Food drives can raise money and collect canned and packaged goods for families struggling to feed their children. Faith institutions often need a hand maintaining their buildings and grounds, so children can organize a painting party (making sure that most of the paint goes on the walls and not on each other). Cities and towns often organize cleanup days at parks, so kids can organize groups to sign up to help. Animal shelters, always a popular place for kids to volunteer, accept donations gathered through drives to collect pet food, blankets and other shelter needs.
Learning to Make a Difference Through a CCA Education
Children perform better in school when they see a point to all their learning. Real-world experience gives them insights into the connection between academics and careers in the fields that pique their interest. At CCA, we believe all learning should prepare children for responsible citizenship and fulfilling careers. Our personalized approach to learning encourages children to pursue their passions and incorporate their interests into their education. CCA students have the flexibility to turn their zeal for changing the world into school projects and pastimes, building connections and experience that lead to college or career training. Contact CCA to learn more about how our students play a role in shaping the world they will soon inherit.