Confessions of a High School Activist: Why We Need to Change How Change is Viewed


Out of a public school with over 2,700 students, only seven people are in my school’s Amnesty International club.

I crunched the numbers and that comes out to around 0.0026% of students that are interested in social activism.  This was an accurate representation of my reaction.

0.0026 percent?!?!

For those that may not know, Amnesty International is a global organization that encourages youth to start clubs at their schools and advocate for social justice issues.  It usually has large membership rates at collegiate level and some high schools, but the math I did certainly didn’t indicate much popularity at my high school.  I was a little shocked that more individuals weren’t interested in making a difference, especially when I compared it to other statistics and figures.

For example, the odds in someone’s lifetime of getting hit by a car is about 1 in 491, or 0.0020 percent.  That means it’s just as likely that you’ll be killed in a car accident in your lifetime than see someone in Amnesty International at my school.  I don’t especially want to get killed in a car accident anytime soon, and I don’t think you do either.  But these figures shouldn’t even be comparable to each other.

People will point out that maybe Amnesty just hasn’t promoted itself enough, or that people don’t necessarily know what it is they do so they haven’t signed up.  But even if these statements are true, it’s still a woefully inadequate number.

Breaking It All Down

If someone looked at these statistics from a glance, they would probably come to the assumption that kids at my school just don’t care about social issues.  Then insert a stereotypical comment rationalizing this by saying  the current generation is too wired up to their devices to actually do anything, and now a reasonably likely scenario just landed on the table.

Many would write these students off as a lost cause, but that would be a huge mistake.  I don’t believe in giving up on 2,663 students so easily, and I don’t believe in generalizing them into one single group either.

These are 2,663 individuals with different tastes, ambitions, passions and aspirations.  These are 2,663 individuals who all (hopefully) have at least a basic sense of empathy and compassion.  Yet, I can see why they might be hesitant to join.

FIghting that High School Mentality

In my high school, caring about social issues is not exactly considered cool.  It’s much more socially acceptable to talk about the latest football game than the latest tragedy in Nepal.  It’s not always pleasant to discuss issues like this,  but it’s the unfortunate truth that these issues are occurring whether we talk about them or not.

We can’t make these problems go away by only speaking about them, but talking can be the first step towards change. If a simple conversation has the chance to inspire someone to take action, then why not take that chance?

Activism is cool.  It’s the kind of purposeful work that no football game can fully replicate.  I would rather get a few strange looks for mentioning something that matters as compared to following the status-quo and keeping my mouth shut.

So right now, 0.0026 percent of my school is interested in social activism.  But I have a feeling it won’t stay like that for long.

Written By:  Sam Gorman, Founder of Youngchange-Bestchange

How is activism perceived in your school?  Let me know in the comments section below!

Find out more about Youngchange-Bestchange’s new social media campaign #wearechange here.

We recently interviewed an individual in Nepal to find out firsthand what conditions are like as they attempt to recover from last month’s devastating earthquake.

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