From L to R: Discovery Center Youth Ambassadors Program (YAP) members Gian Roque, Yubi Mamiya, Julia Dinh (YAP coordinating intern), Varsha Venkatesan and Betty Gebretsadik
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is closely monitoring the developments with the global spread of COVID-19. As a foundation focused on global health, we feel a responsibility to take extra precautions to minimize the virus spreading unintentionally to communities and vulnerable populations.
So, out of an abundance of caution, the Gates Foundation Discovery Center is postponing the Teen Action Fair originally scheduled for March 14, 2020. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding! We will let you know as soon as a new date for the Teen Action Fair is scheduled.
Editor's note: This article was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Now in its seventh year, the annual Gates Foundation Discovery Center Teen Action Fair has perfected its recipe for community inspiration: Blend youths who are highly motivated to make a difference in their local and global communities with dozens of established organizations already leading the charge in various social movements through volunteering, activism, the arts and more; sprinkle liberally with powerful youth performances, thought-provoking art installations, interactive exhibits and various opportunities to participate in important civic dialogue. Serve this rather unique event to your teen, and you just might change the course of their life.
I recently caught up with several members of the Discovery Center’s Youth Ambassadors Program who have helped plan, curate and market this year’s Teen Action Fair to learn more about what attendees can expect.
How would you describe the Teen Action Fair to someone who has never been to one?
Gian Roque (age 16, Mercer Island High School): What I usually tell my friends is that it is an event hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the Discovery Center where we bring together a bunch of nonprofit organizations and high school groups that aim to inspire youths to make change.
Betty Gebretsadik (age 17, Mountlake Terrace High School): I describe it as a place where teens can come to get inspired and to talk to other people and make connections. It’s a place where they can feel like they can make a change, as well. It’s just very welcoming to everyone and anyone can come.
This year’s theme for the Teen Action Fair is “In Community We Flourish” — how did you decide on this slogan?
Gian: The marketing committee noticed the red lotus flower as a common element in all the old posters we have for the Amplifier events in the gallery at the Discovery Center. So, we took a look at that as an inspiration and did a bunch of research, and we discovered that lotus flowers actually thrive in environments which are pretty hard to grow in and they grow in groups. So, we thought: [These are] flowers that bloom and grow in community and we want our communities to also forge and come together to become stronger.
Varsha Venkatesan (age 16, Redmond High School): This year we’re going to have one of the icons from the We the Future exhibit come. Her name is Leah, and she is the youngest icon. We’re really looking forward to getting a new perspective of how people who are even younger than we are make the world an amazing place for everyone. And we’re also going to be displaying works from local youth artists and providing open mics so people can come and share. There will be a lot of dance and singing.
Yubi Mamiya (15, Shorewood High School): I’m on the programming committee and we really look to a lot of different organizations that have a youth perspective or are otherwise involved in their local community, like the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council, which does statewide work; or organizations that are doing global work, such as Water1st International. We invite local high school clubs as well because we feel like it is important for teens to know that they can bring change to many different levels in their community.
What do you expect that attendees will take away from the experience of being at this year’s Teen Action Fair?
Betty: I would hope that they feel empowered when they leave the Teen Action Fair; that, at whatever age, they see they can make a change, no matter how big or how small it is. Youth is the force to make change.
Gian: This question of what we want them to take away is brought up a lot. One answer is that we want attendees to be inspired, but we don’t want them to just feel inspired that day. We want that feeling to stick with them. We want them to stay inspired and continue to make change.
Yubi: From a programming committee perspective, I hope that the youth can see that there is diverse representation for them. And that they can be the representation for other youth and leaders in the future.
Varsha: For me, I know that when young people are looking around at the world and its current state, they can feel very overwhelmed by the number of issues that need to be solved and changed in order for everyone to be able to live their best life. But once teens attend the event and leave with a feeling of hope, a little bit of passion and the knowledge that they are not alone in wanting to change the world, they can find an issue to focus on, and hopefully find a way to be able to change it.