Capacity to Be a Change Agent

Students demonstrate the ability to accurately assess current conditions (i.e., the way things are) and have the ability to envision how things could be better (i.e., the way things ought to be). They recognize their capacity to be a positive change agent in their families, schools, community, and the world.

Key Beliefs:

I will be a better student if I act on the following beliefs:

  • I know that I can help change my family, my school, my community, and the world in positive ways. 
  • It is worth it for me to change because I gain more than I have to give up
  • Participate in a community or school-wide service project.
  • In the western world, history often focuses on the role of adult leadership but rarely on the role of youth. But in reality, youth are often the catalysts for change in society. For example:  Think of the civil rights movement: who comes to mind? (Likely Martin Luther King Jr.) What other change agents can you think of? How did these individuals bring about change?
  • Think of an issue or challenge in your school or community that would benefit from being changed. What role could you and others at your school do to be an agent of change?
  • “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” -Albert Einstein
  • “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” -Oprah Winfrey
  • “Every day the clock resets. Your wins don’t matter. Your failures don’t matter. Don’t stress on what was, fight for what could be.” -Sean Higgins
  • “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” -Leo Tolstoy
  • “Play to your strengths. If you aren’t great at something, do more of what you’re great at.” -Jason Lemkin
  • “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman
  • “You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.” -Ralph Marston
  • “Just take any step, whether small or large. And then another and repeat day after day. It may take months, maybe years, but the path to success will become clear.” -Aaron Ross
  • “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” -Helen Keller
  • “There is nothing permanent except change.” -Heraclitus

The Power to Change the World
A Teaching Unit on Student Activism in History and Today How much of a difference can young people make in addressing the problems our society faces? What makes their voices uniquely powerful? When have youth-led movements influenced policy in the past, and what can we learn from them? In this unit, students consider these questions as they examine gun-violence activism by teenagers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and discuss the school walkouts. They can then go further by learning about youth movements in history, and, finally, considering actions they might take around the issues they care about.

Empowering Youth as Change Agents
Students will analyze and discuss the basic elements of successful action plans created and implemented by their peers from around the country. This lesson highlights the role youth can play in creating a more sustainable and democratic society that reflects human values.

Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices in Social and Emotional Learning
This downloadable guide profiles afterschool programs with a track record of fostering social-emotional learning skills among at-risk adolescents. The guide (created by the Susan Crown Exchange and David Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality) highlights innovative practices for strengthening emotion management, empathy, teamwork, initiative, responsibility, and problem-solving. The accompanying website has tools, sample activities, and stories centered on SEL skills.

“Women Make History” Sample Lesson
Inspire students by introducing them to change agents throughout history: Visit the Civil Rights Teaching Project to download a 45- to 90-minute lesson on the role of women in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. The lesson includes 36 biographies of women who played key roles in the movement and steps for hosting a simulated meeting with each woman, plus a list of resources about women who’ve changed history.

Unlocking Opportunities
This online learning module, launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in London and John Moores University in Liverpool, United Kingdom, helps schools make a difference for children with disabilities. Videos, case studies, and examples show how educators can provide reasonable accommodations for kids with disabilities and ensure that their rights are respected.

  • Alec first saw Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth when he was 12 years old. Inspired by the message, Alec wrote to the organization and applied to be a presenter, but was denied due to his age. Undeterred, Alec created his own presentation and gave it over 30 times before Mr. Gore took notice.  Eventually, Mr. Gore invited Alec to his next training session and Alec became the youngest presenter with The Climate Project. Since then, Alec has gone on to give upwards of 100 presentations to over 20,000 people and founded his own organization, Kids vs. Global Warming.
  • Jessie-Ruth is the core leader of the Vermont Sustainable Heating Initiative (VSHI), a group of students representing 200-plus youth from 26 high schools. In 2004, Jessie-Ruth rose to a teacher’s challenge to create an energy conservation plan; her proposal to transition the school’s oil boiler to a woodchip boiler fueled by local products was adopted by the school board. After learning that Vermont does not have the forest capacity to heat the population with wood alone, VSHI wanted to facilitate the transition to heating with locally produced biomass energy crops. Jessie-Ruth and VSHI wrote a persuasive statewide plan to develop Vermont’s 100,000 acres of underutilized land to grow prairie grass that could be pelletized and provide all of Vermont’s home heating needs. VHSI estimates the program’s financial returns could eventually reach up to $1.3 billion.