Junior Youth are Agents of Change

The example below from a junior youth group in the United States demonstrates the potential of junior youth to be agents of change and their capacity to bring about a significant and lasting change in their communities.

Members from one of the groups discovered that local government officials were considering building a landfill within several miles of where their group members lived and attended school.  Together the group members read articles from several local and regional newspapers and with the assistance of their animator began to analyze the size and impact that the landfill might potentially have on their rural lifestyle. Everyone was surprised to discover that their small town was soon to become the site of one of the largest landfills in the United States. Having recently completed one of the later junior youth texts, which helps the junior youth learn about their power of expression, the group consulted about the possibility of trying to organize a public meeting in which the youth could share their concerns about how this landfill would materially and spiritually impact their community. Because there were only two weeks until the final vote that would be taken to approve the landfill they decided instead to go to public places and talk to people about their concerns and encourage community members to do the same.

The first step the group took was to compile newspaper articles and information from the internet into folders and then to go to a local grocery store and begin talking to residents about the proposed landfill. Group members tried hard to always focus their discussion on their concern for the “material and spiritual well-being” of their community, central concepts in Drawing on the Power of the Word, a book which teaches the junior youth about their power of expression. Group members made efforts to avoid engaging in political or argumentative discussions about the landfill. The group also decided to create a statement expressing their concerns and encouraging the local politicians to seek out public opinions before any further action was taken. Each day over the next two weeks group members made efforts to talk with their friends, parents and other adults within the community reflecting on the effectiveness of the conversations that they were having with others, modifying their approach as they went.  Group members were excited when they attended the public meeting in which local officials decided to seek more public input before proceeding any further with the proposed landfill.

Although the issue of the landfill continued for some months to come, the group members continued to attend public meetings and engage in conversations with others.  During this time they also collected over 400 signatures of community members who also were concerned about the “material and spiritual well-being” of their town (in a town of approximately 900 people).  They presented these signatures to their local councilman during a County Council meeting.  Several weeks later the County Council decided not to proceed with building the landfill.

Following this experience, one of the animators had the following reflections: “What was clear is that the group’s response had been formulated by their study of the [text]. They realized that their words had power and if used deliberately they could affect positive change. Throughout the experience they were confident and united. They remained detached from the final outcome and remained focused on consulting about their next step and seeking God’s “confirmation” which of course they had learned about in Breezes of Confirmation (the first book that the junior youth study in their group).”

The animator further described how during one of their group meetings members began to debate about what they should do next when one of the group members explained to the group, “the only tool that we have is unity, the only way we can change our community is by building unity, everything that our group does needs to build unity. Otherwise we will not be contributing to the spiritual well-being of our community."