Using social media for good deeds is rare. There’s so much bad publicity these days about kids and social media. Cyberbullying, inappropriate postings on social networking sites, apps that put teens in bad situations…problems like these tend to make headlines. But there are also kids and teens out there using social media in positive ways—sometimes wonderful, life-changing ways that show you’re never too young to make a difference.
We found teens using social media for good deeds and worthy causes that we wanted to share with our readers. Get ready to be inspired.
1. Blogging in middle school and helping others earned Michael and Marc Guberti local hero status
In middle school, Michael and Marc started using social media to promote their baseball blogs about the Boston Red Sox and NY Mets. In an effort to inspire his peers to never give up and pursue their dreams, Michael also wrote about athletes and how they would overcome their challenges. Marc wrote about living with food allergies and getting used to that as a kid for others struggling with the same issues.
Because of their blogging experience in middle school, Michael and Mark learned how to gain visibility on social media and then created a program called Teenager Entrepreneur. This program is a personal and business empowerment program <http://businesswhizkids.com/> that teaches students how to gain confidence, conquer fears, and find their passion. They offered this program to underprivileged adolescents, created a non-profit 501C3 to get grants, and have offered scholarships to children for the past 5 years.
The program was held at Fordham University for the first four years and now they travel to schools to empower students.
The NY Knicks granted them the Sweetwater Clifton ‘City Spirit’ Award which pays tribute to local heroes who have made a significant difference in the lives of others.
The award is named in honor of the late Knicks great, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, who was the first African-American to play for the Knickerbockers. Recipients of this award epitomize the same trailblazing characteristics of the Knicks Legend.
It all started with using social media in a positive manner and empowering their peers to do the same.
2. Bullied as a child, today Charles Kolin is using social media as a tool to advocate tolerance, kindness, acceptance, and inclusion
Kolin is the founder of startup The Unity Challenge and is using social media as a way to attract people to join his cause to stop bullying, discord, and hate.
Kolin’s advocacy for tolerance, kindness, and acceptance started when he was a child. He was bullied by his grade school peers due to a neuro disorder that made him different. He was taunted, excluded from groups and shunned by classmates. He was not shown tolerance or inclusion by his young classmates. (Charles has a Non-Verbal Learning Disability. People who have NVLD, a brain-based condition, are characterized by difficulty recognizing and processing nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expression, and the nuances of conversation; poor visual, spatial, and organizational skills, and reduced motor performance. Often they are marginalized and isolated; consequently, they can experience social barriers throughout their lives.)
Kolin traveled to Washington with his parents, Dave and Louise. They met with dozens of Senators and Representatives to share his unity message. They listened, agreed, and drafted a resolution. Kolin’s kindness message is expected to result in Unity Day, October 23d when Congress announces a resolution for all Americans to unify.
“Whether you’ve been bullied like me or you simply have a different point of view on an issue, or you’ve been discriminated against, we need a Unity Day. We need a day where despite all of our differences we are unified for a purpose that is uniquely human …. our humanity itself,” says Kolin.
Today, Kolin is a sophomore, a successful student leader, and a member of the soccer team.
3. Julia Warren throws memorable birthday celebrations for disadvantaged children
A couple of years ago, Julia Warren had an epiphany. For most kids, birthday parties are an annual rite of passage—something usually taken for granted. Yet in Julia’s own hometown of Richmond, Va., there were kids living in poverty who had never had a single birthday party of their own. And this, she decided, was unacceptable.
Julia founded celebrate! RVA to give disadvantaged children in Richmond memorable birthday parties—with fun food, activities, decorations and, of course, cake—to make sure every child feels loved and celebrated on their special day.
The nonprofit organization’s website serves to recruit volunteers as well as donations. The blog shows highlights from recent parties, including special guests like players from the University of Richmond Lacrosse team and even local police who come to celebrate with the birthday boy or girl. Meanwhile, Julia also blogs as The Girl in the Party Hat, sharing personal stories behind the celebrate! RVA parties. She’s spreading the love online while making wonderful memories for countless Richmond children. It’s enough to make her readers want to celebrate, too.
4. Ivan Boyers, Andrew Goodrum and Ariel Kim are furthering the acceptance of disabled children by promoting education
In the summer of 2013, Ivan Boyers, Andrew Goodrum and Ariel Kim were part of a group of high-school students who participated in a community service project in Ghana through the organization VISIONS Service Adventures. That summer they volunteered at three different work sites, but the one that hit closest to Ivan, Andrew and Ariel’s heart was helping to fix up a dormitory at a local center for disabled children, which is known as the Physically Challenged Action Foundation (PCAF).
As their time in Ghana came to a close, the three friends vowed that upon returning home, they would work to raise money to help the center fulfill its dream of building an on-site school—and Ark’s Foundation was born. To date, almost $50,000 already has been spent on the school’s construction.
Ivan explains that social media has been a major catalyst in their effort:
“Regarding our message, we really desired a brand. Therefore, we started by establishing a logo and a website that includes all the vital information for which donors would be looking. Unfortunately, we were still unknown to most of the world. Social media filled this void. Through Facebook, we post photos updating viewers about progress in Ghana but also simply informing potential donors of opportunities to give. Facebook provided a platform through which we could direct people straight to the donation page of our website. And the “share” button has been a huge help to our spread.”
Andrew adds that he looks forward to the day they can revisit the site and see the school completed. “It would be the most amazing, awe-inspiring experience,” he says, “to see the radiant smiles on the children’s faces as they head to school for the first time.”
5. Hannah Alper motivates people of all ages to identify their passion and take action
If there’s such a thing as a social-media prodigy, Hannah Alper is it.
Hannah, who is from Toronto, launched her blog Call Me Hannah when she was just nine years old. Her father, Eric Alper, says Hannah’s passion for speaking out about important causes started early on with her love of animals, which quickly spread to concern for threatened habitats and the environment as a whole.
Fast forward four years, and Hannah, now 13, has not only built a huge following for her blog but gained influence through public speaking and so much more. She has 34,000 followers on Twitter, writes for The Huffington Post, and serves as both a Me to We Motivational Speaker and Free the Children Ambassador. Meanwhile, her advocacy has expanded to also include anti-bullying efforts and celebrating other young role models, including Malala Yousafzai.
Hannah goes by a lot of descriptions, from eco-warrior to “kindraiser.” And if you want to know what kindraising is, here it is in Hannah’s own words from one of her Huffington Post blogs: “Kindraising is all about changing our communities and the world through kindness. I believe that it takes more than money to create a lot of change that we’re working on and that compassion, empathy and kindness play a huge part in reaching our goal.”
6. Jah’Kiyla Atwaters provides the opportunity for children, who can not afford tuition, to play sports
A few years ago, 12-year-old competitive cheerleader Jah’Kiyla Atwaters of Boynton Beach, Fla.—who is also a model and actress featured in a Disney Universal Studios commercial and other roles—was practicing cheerleading routines at a park when she noticed some girls outside the gate watching. When Jah’Kiyla encouraged them to try cheering themselves, one of them responded, “My mom died, and my sister is taking care of us. She doesn’t have any extra money for me to cheer.” Saddened by the story, Jah’kiyla told her mom, and together they formed the Jump with Jah’kiyla (JWJ) Foundation to provide children who normally couldn’t afford it the opportunity to play sports. They created a website to encourage donations and to help kids and their families apply for sports vouchers. Jah’kiyla also launched a social media campaign last year asking kids to create—and photograph themselves with—posters of their favorite sport.
The website BlackCelebrityGiving highlighted the JWJ Foundation in 2014, noting, “The urge to help others and her outgoing personality led Jah’Kiyla to where she is today.”
7. Joshua Williams is on a mission to end hunger locally, across the country and around the world
Through the Joshua’s Heart Foundation, 14-year-old Joshua Williams of Miami, Fla. has recruited more than 10,000 young volunteers and helped raise more than $550,000 to help feed hungry individuals and families around the world. Having developed a passion for helping the hungry when he was just four-and-a-half, he uses his website to encourage people of all ages to join in the cause.
To help spread the word and good deeds, Joshua makes use of all the major social-media channels including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, flickr and Instagram. His site also features blogs from not just Joshua but eight other young people who help spread the word and share their experiences with the organization.
Says his mother, Claudia McClean, “Joshua empowers and engages young people ages two and up to find their passion or purpose and use it for the better good.”
As parents and educators, it might be tough to see the positive side of social media sometimes. But for some teens, it’s not all about finding the best filter for selfies or the latest viral video challenge. Here at Smart Social, it’s our mission to keep kids safe on social media so they can shine online– and these young people are certainly shining examples about the positivity that can be found online.