What happens when a group of high school students comes together to discuss issues in their community? Pure magic.
Recently, a group of students from Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas, huddled into an auditorium for what they thought was an assembly on high school volunteering. Then Monique Coleman, from Disney’s High School Musical, walked out on stage. The group went wild.
She’s an actress and singer, yes. But Monique is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist who cares deeply about today’s youth. And on that day, it was her mission to bring to life the importance of volunteering. The wide-eyed high schoolers listened intently as Monique talked about her childhood and how she got to where she is today. At times, students and I dabbed our eyes.
This motivational speech was only the first part of a half-day WE Volunteer Now Speaking Tour—a traveling workshop meant to inspire youth around the country. After the assembly, students headed to the library for a skill-building activity filled with icebreakers, an action plan, and of course, pizza.
An added bonus? The school received a $250 grant to help the students get their action plan off the ground. Psst … you, too, can sign up to earn your own school grant—check it out here.
“From a principal’s perspective, I was like ‘Wow, this is a great use of instructional time.’ The program was set up as a classroom of learning for my students,” said Lincoln High School principal Chanel Howard-Veazy. “Some of the students said ‘thank you, thank you for giving us this opportunity.’”
Monique’s one question to the group: What are you passionate about?
The kids rattled off topics—teen suicide rate, police brutality, global warming, racism, ignorance. At the end of the day, the group plan was this:
To address the fact that there is ignorance of each other, and a lack of communication, in their community. The group plans to organize a monthly community gathering that offers activities and creates more dialogue and conversation between people in their school.
“I’m not the type of person who would just talk to anyone in my surroundings, but from what I’ve learned today, there’s always someone out there who doesn’t have anyone to talk to,” said Vernezia Henderson, a student at Lincoln High School. “You always have someone who is going through the same thing as you. If you let your feelings out, you have somebody who is always going to be beside you.”
High school volunteering can mean so many things. It’s not just about packing food for a shelter or picking up litter in your neighborhood. It can also mean helping others in the community know their worth or spending time with someone in need.
So how do you get something like this started at your own school? Consider using a class period to discuss relevant topics with your kids, like in the video above. If you’re already volunteering or would like to start, sign up to earn a $250 grant to help fund your project.
It’s amazing what youth can do—when we let them.