Sunday, April 18, 2010

Youth Take Lead in Drive to Change Our World

El Paso Times
By Ouisa D. Davis
Posted: 03/19/2010

We say that the future is in the hands of our youth; that is even more the case in the current age of technology and human advancement. Some of the most pressing problems of our world and our community can be identified and addressed with the eyes of the young; eyes that are clear and bright and optimistic.

Each year, Global Youth Service Day celebrates and mobilizes the millions of children and youths who improve their communities each day through service and service-learning. April 23-25 will be the global celebration of youth changing the world.

Established in 1988, GYSD is the largest service event in the world and is celebrated in more than 100 countries. Targeted toward children and youths between 5 and 25 years old, the world's most critical issues will be addressed by the young in partnership with families, schools, community and faith-based organizations, businesses and governments.

The goals of the campaign are to mobilize youths to identify issues in their communities and develop solutions, to encourage organizations to provide for youth involvement and volunteer opportunities, to encourage media and policy-makers to promote and enable the young to become assets and resources in their communities. In this way, our young people begin a lifelong adventure of service and civic engagement.

Schools and civic organizations are eligible for funding, training and technical support to effectively engage in issue-development, critical analysis and planning to improve our community.

Each year, millions of young people in more than 100 countries participate in GYSD. In 2009, more than 1,200 El Paso youths from local high schools, colleges and community groups participated in GYSD by recycling e-waste, planting trees, giving food to the homeless, and cleaning up parks and graffiti around town.

More than 320 projects are already planned in the U.S., 17 in Texas alone. The United Way of El Paso County spearheads the Global Youth Service Day activities in our community.

One project is Latinitas' Amigas in Action, a service-learning project gathering girls and young women into after-school study groups to identify community needs, develop programs to address those needs and create media projects. Utilizing writing, photography, desktop publishing, graphic art, Web design, filmmaking and audio production, these volunteers will develop multimedia campaigns to raise community awareness and complete written, photo, art, film, online or audio projects distributed online, at schools and to the media.

Across the nation, young people are dreaming community gardens and parks, revitalizing neighborhoods, organizing 3K runs, developing campaigns to fight childhood obesity, planning to promote environmental initiatives and working with local governments to develop policy. One high-school group plans a day-long music fest, featuring youth bands, to raise money and awareness for their year-long project.

It is a good thing to challenge and include our youth in long-term planning for our community; after all, it is their world that they save. And community service activities are always required on college applications.

To register an event, serve on the Global Youth Service Day Coalition, or to participate in a project, contact Nicholas Fernandez at or at (915) 999-1468.

Ouisa D. Davis is an attorney at law in El Paso. E-mail: