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A co-worker shared a beautiful quote with me that will forever be ingrained in my memory and follow me in everything I do: “the future belongs to those who create hope for the next generation.” Adults have the tendency to belittle the emotions and thoughts of children and teens under the not-very-telling correlation between wisdom and age. At times we may feel discouraged when we don’t feel heard, but I am here to tell you that your words have power—even if your voice shakes or isn’t as vociferous as others. There is more to teens than what is depicted in their Claredon or Valencia Instagram filtered posts. When teenagers are affected by something, they are bold enough to share their thoughts with the world and mobilize.

At the age of 12, Malala Yousafzai’s passion for education drove her to advocate on behalf of many young girls who were banned from attending school in her hometown of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.  When the Gloucester County School Board told Gavin Grim he was not allowed to use the bathroom that aligned with his gender identity, he advocated for himself and everyone like him, and won his case in a Virginia Court. In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, school children’s decision to protest the Vietnam War was countered with suspensions from their respective schools— The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of the school children. These are not isolated incidents nor an unusual display of valor. They are a responses to rules and societal constructs that have been defied by teenagers who understand the importance of standing up for what they believe is right.

What hope can we create for the next generation? My hope is for a world without violence. Via our collaboration with the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, Independence House has had a presence in high schools throughout the Cape. The topics discussed in the schools advance our agency’s commitment to educate and prevent conduct that gravely affect teenagers, e.g., teen dating violence, sexual assault, gender in the media, bystander intervention.  We hear your voices and we value your concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that approximately 23% of females and 14% of males have experienced some sort of intimate dating violence prior to their 18th birthday. You are not alone; those statistics are concerning to us, too, but there is something we can do about it!  The aforementioned teenagers realized the power of their voices and utilized them and the tools at their disposal to do something. Whether it’s you or someone you know, we are all affected by violence. Change is the product of vision and action. So what can you do? A lot, actually. You can have a conversation about this subject with your friends. You can help out a friend who may be in an abusive relationship. You can ask your schools to allot time during the schoolyear to discuss those unsettling statistics. You can join the MVP clubs in your respective school.

You can augment to the dialogue, and subsequently bring forth the necessary change, our society, world needs. The journey towards a nonviolent world filled with empowered people may be an arduous one, but a native Bay Stater, Theodore Parker, left us with these comforting and inspiring words: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscious. And from what I can see, I am sure it bends towards justice”, and as time and history have demonstrated, it only does so if we bend it that way. The future is intersectional; the future is young; the future is you.