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The Voices of Teen Night: Be the Change

April 19, 2013

Our first Visitor Center Teen Night is free and open to middle and high school students on Friday, April 26 at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. Learn more on Facebook.

The Challenge: In 24 hours organize a Teen Night to inspire and engage youth around ways they can make a difference.

The Catch: The 24 hours are spread over two months and the organizers are teens themselves.

In February, we put out a call to the broader community: Tell us about the young people you know who want to change the world.

The call was heard by educators, parents and local organizations such as the Seattle Public LibrarySeattle Department of Parks & Recreation, the World Affairs Council, the Downtown YMCA, School’s Out Washington, and Penny Harvest. Our new teen committee commenced with 40 students who hailed from 25 different schools—public, private and home-schooled, alike.

 In my short time volunteering at the foundation, I have learned how lucky I am. I can turn a knob and instantly receive clean drinking water. I have a wide range of foods. I have a toilet! The foundation works to get these things to people that aren't as privileged as I am.Teen Committee Member Leila Blair

They got to work. Along the way, they met foundation leadership and staff, like Martha Choe and Suzanne Walsh, Senior Program Officer for Postsecondary Education Success. Representatives from the teen committee even attended events like Free the Children’s “We Day” and a special teen-only live screening of the first TEDxChange hosted by the foundation in Seattle.

You may be wondering, what is the point of inviting teens—40 at that—to create a teen-only event?

Well, we bet that young people are untapped visionaries. Turns out, our bet paid off.

Yes. These teens crafted innovative educational experiences that illuminate the Visitor Center’s exhibits and the work of our partners.

Yes. They kept sight of the North Star: guiding middle school and high school students toward what they can do themselves to fight poverty and hunger and increase opportunity—from spreading awareness to volunteering and beyond.

The Result: The April 26 Teen Night will have interactive tours that will feature prompts where teens can participate in-person and with the Twitter hashtag #VCTeenNight and the @GatesVC Twitter handle. The evening will also feature hands-on activities. Teens can design their own do-it-yourself  bracelets and buttons to share issues they are passionate about. To incite energy and action, Teen Night will feature spoken word from Hamda Yusuf, a Somali-born and Seattle-raised youth poet who wants to join the Peace Corps and study international development. Rhythm will move the evening with special guests the Garfield Drumline and a DJ from the all-ages venue The Vera Project.

Our committee member Grace Wilson puts it this way, “If I can get other teens excited to learn about causes around the world, I believe [it] could last a lifetime!”

Committee member Dawit Nuguse says he wants us to look around and see “how much potential local kids have to positively affect the world.” If we do, we will notice that the youth of this generation want those of the “next generation [to] have equal or greater opportunities.”

We’re proud of our teen committee members and we look forward to future collaborations with students of every background who want to be the change they want to see. Moreover, we are excited to witness our first ever Teen Night and the magic that can happen when 40 teens organize a night of inspiration for hundreds of their peers.

"Be the Change" quotes from our Teen Committee:

  • “I feel that it is an amazing opportunity to be a part of a planning committee with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation because it would be benefiting the community. My vision for getting youth to give back is having a fundraiser with fun events that would benefit the community.” Teen Committee Member Aron Nuguse
  • "My vision for getting young people to give back to their community is to help them realize that any positive action, big or small, can benefit people.” Teen Committee Member Grant Schiller
  • “I have a passion for science and hope to have a career in that field, so the work being done at the foundation on global health interests me the most. I believe that young people are motivated not just by a cause, but by the ability to see the direct outcome of their effort.” Teen Committee Member Jack Sather
  • “I want young people to realize that giving back is one of the most important things you can do in life. I want them to recognize the significance of it, and to enjoy it as well as participate in it.” Teen Committee Member Jasmine Shen
  • “We’re not just in the U.S.; globally, teens should know about other countries and their struggles. To get young people to give back to the world, they first have to know why and how.” Teen Committee Member Katrina Teo
  • “Personally, I am very interested in all the things that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does and has done for social justice.” Teen Committee Member Lina Catunda
  • “Even though there are adults who refuse to take our young ambitions seriously, there are other adults ready to inspire us to do more, to start young.” Teen Committee Member Nancy Mariano
  • “Most of us live a sheltered life and need to step into the real world.” Teen Committee Member Simone Archer-Krauss
  • “A few years ago, my mother gave me “Half the Sky” to read, and this changed my view of the problems faced by women. To get teens to give back, we have to show them how the issues impact them.” Teen Committee Member Roxanne Traeger

Spring 2013 Visitor Center Teen Committee Members:

  1. Amy Li
  2. Anzhane Slaughter
  3. Aron Nuguse
  4. Ashley Rotonto
  5. Austin Fischer
  6. Caroline Healey
  7. Catalina Romo
  8. Claire Kasinadhuni
  9. Claire Woodford
  10. Dajeanne Washington
  11. Dakota Rice-Narusch
  12. Dawit Nuguse
  13. Ember Rice-Narusch
  14. Grace Wilson
  15. Grant Schiller
  16. Griffin Barchek
  17. Indy Rice-Narusch
  18. Jack Sather
  19. Jacque Griffin
  20. Jasmine Shen
  21. Kamilah Prentice
  22. Katrina Teo
  23. Leila Blair
  24. Liam Moser
  25. Lina Albernaz
  26. Malaya Medrano
  27. Marianna Aptacy
  28. Megan Fu
  29. Melanie Greenberg
  30. Nancy Mariano
  31. Quinn Smart
  32. Rahel Nuguse
  33. Renee Nicholas
  34. Roxanne Trager
  35. Rutha Nuguse
  36. Simone Archer Krauss
  37. Sophie Mittelstaedt
  38. Vaiva Palunas
  39. Warisha Soomro
  40. Yohana Iyob

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