In 2018, the late, great American politician and Civil Rights Activist, John Lewis tweeted the following statement. “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. #goodtrouble”
On Saturday, I was honored to witness and get into some good trouble of my own with one of our Pennsylvania-based Kindness in Community Fund recipients, VOiCEup Berks, joined by Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading, Stand Together Against Racism (STAR), and students and faculty from Milton Hershey School. Here, we all watched a screening of the hour long student produced documentary titled “Stand Together – A Youth Driven Movement to Fight Racism” followed by a youth led discussion from students from the film about racism, inclusion, injustice and taking action as well as how these topics tie in with mental health.
In Born This Way Foundation’s Kindness Is Action report, we explored how young people define kindness, the impact of kindness on mental wellness, and how young people are using kindness to cope with overlapping and ongoing crises. We learned from this report that young people know kindness is rooted in action, something that the young people at VOiCEup Berks’, Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading, Stand Together Against Racism (STAR), and Milton Hershey School also understand. (You can learn about our Kindness Is Action report here.)
VOiCEup Berks’ mission is to create opportunities for people to volunteer, learn and lead in their communities and strive to provide volunteers with a high-quality experience that fuels further action, and envision a day when everyone is inspired and equipped to be the change they wish to see in the world.
Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading (YVC) is a team-based service learning program for youth ages 11-18. Youth engage in meaningful service activities while having fun and learning about their community and themselves. YVC not only provides youth with critical job skills for future employment, but also offer improved life trajectories. Every project is organized and led by trained Team Leaders who are there to motivate and inspire.
Stand Together Against Racism (STAR)’s mission is to address racism and injustice in their community through education and dialogue which is initiated, supported, and facilitated by youth.
Following the documentary, youth leaders Maddy and EliAnna lead a pertinent and powerful discussion addressing its various topics and themes, inviting each person in attendance to share their thoughts and feelings in response to the documentary. As the discussion continued, I watched as each young person in attendance courageously shared their own experiences, uplifted each other, and discussed ways in which they can bring their dreams of a kinder community and world to fruition. I was also inspired by the ways in which the MHS, STAR, and VOiCEup Berks staff supported and encouraged these young people and their ideas.
We ended the discussion by asking the young people to share some of the ways that they practice kindness to themselves throughout their advocacy. One student shared their #SelfCareSunday practice which comes equipped with a face mask and taking a shower with music. Another student shared that celebrating their small victories and serving others makes them feel better about themselves. (You can visit https://pleasestay.us/ for more soul-filling act suggestions, evidence-based self-care tips, mental health resources, as well as a #PleaseStayPledge you can take promising to stay.)
We know from our work at Born This Way Foundation that we can’t pour from an empty cup, and I left the Hershey Milton School that day with my cup overflowing with hope and gratitude. Thank you VOiCEup Berks, YVC, STAR, and MHS for having me along as we made good trouble together and for joining us in building a kinder + braver world.