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Teens in Action

Teens have always been at the forefront of social change in communities. Social change initiatives:

  • Build community-based responses, not solutions that affect just a few individuals and leave the original problems intact.
  • Insist on accountability and responsiveness among institutions, large corporations, government and other entities whose policies and actions profoundly affect the living conditions of individuals and communities, whether locally or nationally.
  • Expand the meaning and practice of "democracy" by involving those closest to social problems in determining their solutions.

Social change relates to SHIFT in several ways. We are working to change what is marketed to us and what is marketed in our communities. We want teens affected by the current imbalance in food marketing to get involved versus letting the current food marketing system drive what food and beverage products show up in our communities. The change we need can’t happen as a result of researchers or organizations taking the lead, it has to happen on the community level to be successful. We create the solutions based on the best information on the issues we want to address and then we determine how to keep things moving in the right direction for our communities.

Following are just a few examples of how youth are leading social change their communities. How will you create the change you want to see related to having more healthy food and beverages options in your community?

Campaign for Non-Violent Schools

Issue addressed: Decreasing school violence in the Philadelphia School District

Youth-led activities: In 2009, student leaders from the Philadelphia Student Union began the campaign for non-violent schools, protesting the state legislature for budget cuts and engaging Philadelphia youth and turning “riots” into opportunities to lead and organize for a cause.

Outcome: This campaign has led to some changes in Philadelphia. For example, the school district has increased student engagement by creating the Citywide Student Government and conflict resolution programs, but the campaign has hopes that more will be done.       


Garden for Life

Issue addressed: Child obesity and the wide availability of unhealthy foods.

Youth-led activities: Starting in 2004 – 2005, students with special needs began to grow their own fruits and vegetables in an effort to see whether students who toil and grow their own healthy foods will make changes in their diet. The Garden for Life group formed a school committee with leaders representing our small learning academies within the school. Students developed cultural gardens and have plans for raised bed gardens and a garden entrance archway.

Outcome: What began as a class project now includes students throughout the school and has turned into plans for the construction of a school greenhouse, multiple school gardens, and a small horticultural business. This is an ongoing project.


Manual Arts High School’s Youth Health Action Board

Issue addressed: Saving a health clinic

Youth-led activities: In 2008, students from the Human Rights Club at Manual Arts High School petitioned to save the medical services that were offered by the health clinic. In addition, they created a mock cemetery in the middle of the school to emphasize the health threats that faced the students if they lost the medical services.

Outcome: The Manual Arts Health Clinic remained open through the support of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. Additionally, the school created a Youth Health Action Board where students help with the school’s pregnancy prevention and nutrition programs.


New York City Youth help Storm Victims Rebuild Homes

Issue Addressed: Hurricane Katrina Relief

Youth-led Activities: In 2005, students from Urban Academy in New York decided to travel to New Orleans and assist with the rebuilding movement of the after effects of Hurricane Katrina. They helped to raise money for their trip through a Walk-a-thon, a Run-a-thon, and a Bike-a-thon. Additionally, they wrote a grant proposal and won $4,500 to help support their spring break trip.

Outcome: 23 students were able to travel to New Orleans during their spring break and help renovate a flooded school building.


The Philadelphia Urban Creators

Issue addressed: Lack of community-based infrastructure in the 9th Ward of New Orleans

Youth-led activities: In 2010, the Philadelphia Urban Creators were founded to help create sustainable solutions to global problems that impact their community as well as in New Orleans. They have created partnerships with local schools, churches, residents, and active organizations.

Outcome: PUC worked with the Philadelphia Village of Arts & Humanities to use a two acre plot of vacant land and transform it into an urban farm.

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