There are many things I enjoy about young people. They see the world with fresh eyes and an innocent heart. They believe they can do the impossible. This is a story about 5 American, teenage heroes, all young people who made a difference in their corner of the world:
The year is 1955 in the town of Birmingham, Alabama. Young Claudette Calvin, was leaving school and getting ready to take the long, bus ride home. It was Black History Month and her head was full of all the things she learned in school that day. Thoughts of Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglas, and others were on her mind as she left the school yard. She felt proud to be black and she felt empowered.
The 15 year old Claudette, walked up the steps of the Birmingham bus and sat down. The bus continued along its route and a white passenger boarded the bus and told Claudette to give him her seat. Thoughts of her heroes were still in her head and she refused to give up the seat. The bus driver stopped the bus and called the police. The police hand cuffed and dragged the young, Miss Calvin off the bus and took her to jail.
This happened nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and sit at the back of the bus. Because Claudette had become pregnant, the NACCP decided to promote Ms. Parks action as the start of the,”Civil Rights Movement”. The brave actions of Miss Calvin were almost dismissed.
Furkan Dogan, was a 19 year old American who also had Turkish citizenship. He was an activist who tried to help the Palestinians in Gaza to have adequate food and medical supplies. The Flotilla that was headed for Palestine was boarded by Israeli soldiers and Furkan was shot in the forehead and died. His young life was snuffed out in a second, because his young heart wanted to help people he knew were starving. His death outraged the world and people from around the globe demanded that the United Nations hold the Government of Israel responsible for his death. Furkan’s death caused people to want to unite even quicker to help the Palestinian people.
Born October 19,1993, Abby Sunderland tried to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. People questioned the judgement of her parents to let her do such a dangerous thing, alone. Abby did not succeed in her quest, but she inspired people to follow their dreams and reach for the stars. Her rescue mission caused considerable money to the countries who helped her, so laws were enacted saying “tourists” needing rescue would have to pay a portion of the rescue expenses back to the government. Abby took the opposition to her voyage in stride and chose to look at the positive outcomes from the trip.
A high school in Fulton, Mississippi cancelled the high school prom when school officials found out Constance McMillian planned on bringing her girl friend with her to the prom. The couple are gay. Constance contacted the ACLU and filed a lawsuit and won against the school.
Parents at the school held another prom and McMillian was allowed to go to the school sponsored,”fake prom”. McMillian help launch, “Prom is For Everyone.” Her bravery resulted in her being an outcast at her high school, but she advanced the rights of gay people through out the country and is a hero to many young people-both gay and straight.
Why is it important to recognize the accomplishments of young people?
Promoting the positive actions of today’s young people help teenagers to know that young people can make a difference and helps young people realize that they do not have to emulate gangsters, violence, and dropping out of school. I decided to write this article after my own daughter grew frustrated because she felt her age held her back from doing many of the things she would like to do. After I introduced her to the above five teen agers, she is now focusing on “what she can do” instead of the what she can’t.