Chances are good that you’ve heard of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. From poverty to health to education, the foundation and its partners have improved the lives of billions of people.
What you might not know: They’re hoping to inspire the next generation of changemakers, too.
Editor's note: This article was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length
Every month this year, we’ll profile one teen from the Seattle area who is making a difference in their community. Some of the teens featured 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.
We’ve highlighted several YAP members in recent installments of our ongoing series, Teens Take Action; learn how the Gates Foundation Discovery Center is helping them get there and how you can, too.
Who am I?
I’m Breanna Glover. I’m 18 and a senior at Tahoma High School in Maple Valley. During my freshman year, I took AP Human Geography and we went on a field trip to the Gates Foundation Discovery Center. Deborah [Sepulveda, manager of public programs for the Discovery Center] was my tour guide. I overheard her talking to another student about the Youth Ambassadors Program. I applied on a whim at 11 p.m. the day before the application was due and I’m really glad that I did!
My mom is from Ghana and so I’ve always been passionate about helping people, particularly internationally. But until I joined the Youth Ambassadors Program, I felt that I had no voice to catalyze social and global change, particularly as a teen.
Through Gates, I’ve met a lot of interesting teens who really push me a lot to reconsider how I see my world. It’s made me more aware of the privilege that I have and how important it is to understand what other people are going through. I’ve realized that no matter who you are or where you live, you can still make a change. Everyone’s voices are important. The world would be a lot better off if we worked together.
What I’m up to
Around the time that I got involved with the Gates Foundation, I joined an international program called African Promise Foundation. Our mission is to empower women and children who were displaced in Uganda during the ongoing conflict there. We work to give Ugandan women a stable income by selling beads [editor’s note: per the African Promise Foundation website, they purchase beads from women in Northern Uganda and sell them in developed countries with the sales going back to Northern Ugandan communities to care for orphaned children].
As a sophomore, I organized a jewelry party to support the foundation through my action program [with the Youth Ambassadors Program]. A friend and I fundraised in our local town and we raised over $4,000 that went to the African Promise Foundation and, I want to say, helped eight kids for an entire year.
This year, I’m doing two outreach presentations through the Youth Ambassadors Program. One will be to my school’s administration or school board; the other will be a bigger presentation to the school, which I want to make about empathy and learning other people’s stories with a focus on children’s education.
My experiences with the Youth Ambassadors program also 100 percent inspired me to seek out service opportunities through other programs. Once I realized how passionate I am about service, I joined all the service clubs in school and had my friends join too. Currently, I’m president of my school’s Key Club and secretary of National Honor Society.
Want to get involved, too? What I recommend
You don’t need something big to make change in your community. That’s something I definitely didn’t realize until I joined the Youth Ambassadors at Gates.
Whether or not you apply to a group like this or just focus on your local community, there are always things you can do if you take the time and effort to really look around. It’s up to you to find who needs help. Maybe go into your school’s counseling office and see if there are any families who need help whom you could sponsor. Or perhaps get involved with your local service club. Or just find a cause that you’re really passionate about and go from there.
You should never feel like the passion that you have won’t make a change in the world. Because really, if you put your mind to it and you care enough about something, you can make change.