There are many stereotypes people are faced with every day. Whether they are based on skin color, religion or social circle, various judgments fill the adult world with preconceptions about people based on one characteristic.
Unfortunately, stereotypes stretch outside of the adult world and onto the younger generation. I hear many things when talking to adults about the work I do for the community, but I hear one thing more than any other: “It’s great to see a young person actually doing something!”
While I am aware this is meant as a compliment, I often take offense when told I am one of the few members of my generation taking action.
There is a strong stereotype that my generation doesn’t care, makes poor choices and is just plain bad. Yes, there will always be the 1 percent of teens my age who don’t care what happens to the world we live in, but they are far from the majority. There are young people doing amazing things, big and small, every single day.
Changing the world
I recently was selected as one of 10 national winners of the Peace First Prize. The prize is meant to “celebrate the powerful contributions of youth peacemakers.” I am extremely honored to be associated with a group of individuals, ages 9 to 22, who are changing the world.
From my project, the Tolerance Fair, an event meant to bring communities together; to the goals of others, such as bridging the gap between young people and police in Detroit; to providing teddy bears to orphaned children — I have learned about amazing projects being done by young people that are creating a big impact.
While there is a class of people in my generation who are following their passion, and dedicating parts of their lives to changing the world for the better, there are millions of teens making a difference in their own little way every single day.
Small acts do matter
One project that I launched is called Good Deeds Matter. The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the small acts of kindness. We ask kids to decorate a 5-by-5-inch puzzle piece describing their personal good deeds. The pieces show kids helping each other with homework, cooking for friends who are ill, donating food and taking time to volunteer.
When put together into mosaics, these pieces visually showcase a wealth of kindness.
So yes, there are some teens who would want to watch the world burn, but thankfully they are the 1 percent.
All that I would ask of an adult (or anyone for that matter) is to see the other 99 percent who will be there to fight that fire. Whether it’s the big-scale projects that can move mountains, or the little acts of kindness that add up to an ocean of good, you better watch out — because my generation’s 99 percent is changing the world as we know it.
Justin Bachman, a junior at Solon High School who has Tourette’s syndrome, founded the annual Tolerance Fair of Northeast Ohio. This year’s event will take place on March 9 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Cleveland Convention Center. More than 200 nonprofit and resource organizations will be on exhibit. For more information, visit www.honorgooddeeds.com.