Credit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center
Editor's note: This article was sponsored by the Gates Foundation Discovery Center.
The annual Gates Foundation Discovery Center Teen Action Fair is back in person for 2023, March 25, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.! This event, created by teens for teens, 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.
This year’s theme is “Those Who Made Us,” and the programming will explore intersections between family life, mental health and racial equality.
I was lucky enough to connect with a few members of the Discovery Center’s Youth Ambassadors Program who have helped plan this year’s event to learn more about what attendees can expect.
How would you describe the Teen Action Fair to someone who has never been to one?
Zoe Kanter (age 18, a senior at Lincoln High School): The Teen Action Fair is a space created for teen by teens to help people get inspired, connected and involved in various organizations. There will be something for everything, whether you’re interested in fighting poverty and hunger, passionate about racial equity and social justice, or wanting to get involved in teen arts programs. It’s really community-oriented and will be a super welcoming space.
Adam Roble (age 16, a junior at Interlake High School): The Teen Action Fair celebrates youth and inspires people to incite change on a local and global scale. Each year has a theme, and under the umbrella of each theme are partner organizations addressing relevant issues. There are also live performances and games to keep the event spirited.
Brandon Bao (age 16, a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School): At the Teen Action Fair, visitors can explore a wide array of engaging and interactive displays and activities, learn about different social issues and discover innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems. From organizations focused on youth-civic engagement and social justice to mental health, there is something for everyone at this vibrant and inspiring event.
We’ll also have food, exciting performances and more! It is an excellent opportunity for young people to meet like-minded individuals, network with professionals and gain valuable insights into the various ways they can make a positive impact on the world.
This year’s theme is “Those Who Made Us” — how did you decide on this theme and what does it mean to you?
Zoe: We knew we wanted to work off of the current exhibit at the Discovery Center, “Designing Motherhood.” However, we knew that the term “motherhood” might not draw in a lot of teens, especially people who do not plan on becoming parents or mothers. Our theme symbolizes that, and allows us to address a lot of different issues and how they intersect.
To me, “Those Who Made Us” is about considering all of the factors and people who have contributed to who we are and who we are growing up to be — not just our family, but our friends, our neighbors and other aspects of the society in which we live. For many of us, societal issues have had large impacts on our childhood and teen years. This theme encompasses all of that.
Adam: To entice people into the theme of motherhood, we wanted to remind them that this exhibit is dedicated to those who made each and every single one of us. This is one of my favorite themes, because we are taking an unfiltered look into the experiences and challenges of motherhood. By centering our Teen Action Fair around “Designing Motherhood,” we are breaking down the social stigma around reproductive health.
Brandon: To me, “Those Who Made Us” means thinking about the people who came before us, and recognizing the struggles and challenges they may have faced when accessing vital reproductive care.
What do you expect attendees will take away from the experience of being at this year’s Teen Action Fair?
Zoe: I hope teens will leave not only feeling inspired, but with direct ideas for how to take action on issues they care about. I think every teen who attends will be able to leave with emails for organizations to get involved with, events to participate in or ideas for programs to apply to. If, coming in, you have space in your schedule and a desire to get involved, coming out you will have ideas and plans for what to do.
Adam: Our goal is to immerse teen change-makers and equip them with the tools needed to act on their passion. By giving a platform for youth organizations and allowing attendees to connect with them, we aim to curate an environment that fuels a desire for youths to take action on issues they are interested in.
Brandon: We expect attendees to walk away with a newfound passion for social justice and the spark of a change-maker. Hopefully, attendees will find an organization or performance so interesting that they are prompted to get involved and contribute to our society in their own way. We want attendees to be able to create a network of people they can rely on to collectively push for something they want to achieve.
What motivated you to get involved with the Youth Ambassador Program?
Zoe: I spent a lot of my early teen years wanting to get involved with advocacy and nonprofit organizations, but not knowing how. The Youth Ambassador Program really helped me to find my role in those spaces. I hope that the Teen Action Fair can be this catalyst for other young people, to help them find themselves and community, as well as help support organizations doing important work and connect them with passionate young people.
Adam: I was someone who wanted to get involved in advocacy, but I didn’t know a proper outlet or space to make a positive impact. It wasn’t until I attended the Teen Action Fair in 2020 that I knew I wanted to be a Youth Ambassador and be someone who can inspire others the same way the Teen Action Fair inspired me.
Brandon: For me, getting involved with the Teen Action Fair was driven by my passion for creating positive social change. As a young person who cares deeply about issues such as environmental sustainability and social justice, I saw the fair as an excellent opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations, learn new skills and strategies, and contribute to meaningful social impact.
My involvement with the Youth Ambassador Program has been an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience. It has allowed me to connect with amazing people, learn new things and contribute to a cause that I am truly passionate about. I am excited to continue my involvement and to see how it continues to inspire and empower young people for years to come.
What is one thing you are looking forward to at this year’s fair?
Zoe: I’m really looking forward to the live performances. This is our first in-person Teen Action Fair in several years, so I can’t wait to feel the energy in the room that was missing in our online version. We have a lot of plans to keep it lively and engaging, from a scavenger-hunt-style crossword puzzle to performances. It should be really fun!
Adam: I am looking forward to the general energy the Teen Action Fair provides. The Teen Action Fair has always been an energetic culmination of youth advocacy. However, it has been virtual for the past few years. Hearing all of the robust performances, seeing all the youth organizations and enjoying the lively atmosphere at the Discovery Center is what makes me excited!
Brandon: I’m really looking forward to the organizations that are tabling! We have groups like TeenTix, Free2Luv, Washington LYAC, Period., and so much more! It’s so exciting to learn about all of these different groups and their impacts on our community.
What is your favorite part about being involved in the Youth Ambassador Program?
Zoe: I’ve loved being involved in the Youth Ambassador Program, not only because of the work and organizing that we have done, but because of the people I’ve met. It’s really a lovely community, and I’m so grateful to everyone I’ve been able to meet — they are just the kindest, most driven and passionate people. I really recommend this program to any young people who want to get involved in community organizing.
Adam: I feel so grateful to be a Youth Ambassador. I’ve been in the program for three years now, and I feel like I have found a space of like-minded youths dedicated to advocacy and fighting for social justice. I genuinely found my voice and gained leadership skills through this program, and I thank everyone who made the Youth Ambassador Program such a fantastic community.