Editor's note: This article was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
There’s a lot to learn from Yubi Mamiya.
At 14 years old, the freshman at Shoreline’s Shorewood High School volunteers at Hope Place Shelter in Kent and Teen Feed in Northeast Seattle. She’s a tutor and a member of her school’s student government. Oh, and she’s also teaching herself how to code.
“I want to lift other people up,” Mamiya says. “So many people have lifted me up [in my life] and I want to do the same.”
That passion to help others initially attracted Mamiya to a summer program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the course of several weeks, she heard from local leaders about their work to improve their communities.
“It was really inspiring,” she says. “Here were organizations that weren’t massive but that had humongous impact. They showed me that change can come from motivation and people — not just from power.”
Inspired, Mamiya joined the Youth Ambassadors Program (YAP) at the Gates Foundation.
“[The YAP members] really listened to me and my ideas,” she says of meeting YAP teen members over the summer. That kind of positive interaction left an impression. “As a young person, you’re not always recognized,” she says.
One of those ideas: a website to help preschool-aged children get easier access to early learning resources. Parents who might be busy working could use the website to give their young learners games and puzzles that teach math, reading and writing, Mamiya says.
“So much learning happens before school even starts,” she adds. “I know people would succeed more if they had the same access to resources. That kind of inequality shouldn’t be ignored.”
While Maimya isn’t sure of what life looks like after high school quite yet — she does, after all, have three years ahead — she’s sure of one thing: Whatever she does, she wants to help people. And she knows other young people can do the same.
“Even if you’re a bit shy, stepping forward is definitely worth it,” she says. “I’ve found that the community of changemakers is really supportive. It can be a bit hard but it’s worth it.”