Since January, we’ve spoken with one local teen a month who’s making a difference. Some are involved in the Gates Foundation Discovery Center’s Youth Ambassadors Program (YAP), a
year-long service learning program for high school students designed to educate, engage and empower youth.
These teens have their sights set on a better, brighter future. Learn how the Gates Foundation Discovery Center is helping them get there and how you can, too.
Editor's note: This article was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Who am I?
I’m Tai McMillan. I’m 18 and a senior at Renton High School. This is my second year in the Youth Ambassadors Program at the Gates Foundation. I was actually in the pilot program, which ran during the 2016-2017 school year.
I first heard about the Youth Ambassadors from my mom. She had enrolled my little brother in a Gates summer program for middle school students and saw that there was a high school program, too. I looked into it and signed up.
I had a really good time in that program. [After it was over,] our program facilitator reached out to me to see if I would be interested in being part of the Youth Ambassador pilot program. I was so I applied and was lucky enough to get in.
What I'm up to
Through my work as a Youth Ambassador, I helped plan and promote the foundation’s Teen Action Fair last year. What was really cool about that event is that an organization that I’m a part of, Northwest Tap Connection [a social justice dance studio], attended the fair. The director of Northwest Tap Connection even let me hop in on a number they did during the fair. [Editor’s note: McMillan began dancing with Northwest Tap Connection at age 8 after seeing his then-3-year-old brother perform to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with the group.]
[As a Youth Ambassador], I’ve volunteered multiple times with Teen Feed. That’s a program where we make dinner for homeless teens. We buy the food, make the dinner and serve it. Part of my role as a Youth Ambassador is also to run outreach programs at my school. We try and inspire the other youth in our community that they have the ability to participate in the change that the Gates Foundation is doing.
For a lot of people, they don’t even know these problems are happening in the world so the outreach programs are pretty eye-opening. As a Youth Ambassador, it’s really nice that I get to show other students that these things are happening and that they can do something about it.
Want to get involved, too? What I recommend
Start small and build on that. For families, start in your household. Perhaps you’re passionate about environmental issues. You could start composting and turning the lights off and being adamant about those things. Or maybe once a week, you and your family go clean up a park.
Also, do research. There are so many organizations in our area that are doing positive work; you’re bound to find something that aligns with your interests. And even if you don’t, there are so many options, something will likely catch your attention. It’s about exploring and building on top of that.