Young Americans are fired up about issues defining American politics, from mental health to climate change. Read their calls for bipartisan action in 2023.
LETTERS TO MY TEACHER
Snap Your Solution Contest Winners
It's Time For A Change (1st Place—Ages 13-18) In 2022 I volunteered on Kina Collins’s campaign as a videographer and photographer... The most powerful moments of the campaign took place in the largely Black West and South sides of Chicago with everyday people. Our interaction with this woman demonstrates how powerful and inspiring Kina’s campaign was. The woman began by telling us her story. She had been a public-school teacher for decades and lived on the West Side in Austin her entire life. She loved her family and was proud of her community, but violence was only getting worse. Like many of the other voters we talked to, this woman had old ties to [Kina's opponent] Danny Davis. Enter Kina Collins, a young and determined activist from the West Side with a track record of making things happen... Kina discussed her vision to improve Chicago, and after the woman realized she was talking with a bad-ass change-maker who was actually going to fight for the West Side, I captured this beautiful moment... [Davis] won by a slim margin of 7 percent. That 7 percent is the difference between the same status quo politics my district has had for far too long, and the new, genuine leadership Kina would have brought to the table. Civic action isn’t easy. It takes unbelievable determination. Thankfully, I know a girl from the West Side. She’s just getting started.
Movement Behind the Moment (2nd Place—Ages 13-18) I took this photo at a pro-choice protest in Kansas City that occurred after the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson was leaked. This held special significance in Kansas, where three months later, residents would be voting on whether or not the state would protect a woman’s right to choose. In a Republican-dominated state with a history of redlining, the speakers at the rally emphasized the combined effort it would take to reach all of Kansas... In August, Kansas voted to maintain abortion access, making it the first state to do so and I am proud to have captured the movement behind such a historic moment.
The Aftermath (3rd Place Tie—Ages 13-18) On June 11th, 2022, I attended a March For Our Lives protest in Washington DC. Repeated gun violence had plagued the country, people needed an opportunity to gather. Thousands of protesters covered the mall and organizers passed out blue shirts like candy. About an hour into the speeches, a rogue individual caused a disturbance in the crowd, making surrounding people think a gun was present. They all began to stampede away from the stage, running over children, seniors, and myself. It was a truly terrifying experience for all parties involved. My photograph, titled "The Aftermath" captures a father and daughter moments after the unrest. Even after such a horrifying event, they returned to the stage for the remainder of the protest. They, along with many of the previous protesters, put themselves back in danger to advocate for better gun laws. That is civic action.
One Team. One Nation. (3rd Place Tie—Ages 13-18) ...At the September 10, 2021 varsity home football game, the Lancers remembered the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with a moment of silence before the game honoring the sacrifices of so many. The student section wore American colors to celebrate the country’s resilience. Students and members of the community showed up to enjoy one of America’s pastimes with excitement and spirit. ...Just as the Lancers came together on a community level reshaping their focus and honing in on what they needed to do to win, so did the country after the 9/11 attacks. On that September day the whole nation was shook to the core. In the aftermath, however, people came together as Americans to face the tragedy together and rebuild.
Woman, Life, Freedom. (1st Place—Ages 8-12) Woman, Life, Freedom. That is what the protesters were shouting on Brooklyn Bridge last Saturday. I took the photo at a protest that was organized by the Iranian community in New York. My family is partly from Iran. My mom left Iran in 1980, shortly after the new leaders came into power. She came to America with her mom. They had nothing. We're Iranian Jews and the leaders of Iran don't really like Jewish people. When I saw the photo of the Iranian woman that was killed because she had too much hair coming out from her hijab, I got mad. All these stories from Iran are affecting me a lot... They can't kill all the women in Iran and if they try, then it would be very bad for the country. I want these rulers in Iran to change. If they would run the country in a different way, I would go to Iran all the time. That's why I went to protest. And because I want a better future for women.
My Teachers Stand For Purpose and Our Safety (2nd Place—Ages 8-12) I see civics playing out in my community through my teachers. I love them because they believe in us, stand up for our safety, and our education. During the pandemic, I was confused when I had to suddenly stay at home. I couldn’t see my teachers or my classmates in person. My teachers helped me understand the circumstances and explained that we were going to learn virtually for a while. During a time of virtual learning, they still tried to help me grow my brain and took the time to walk me through ways to learn and win. This also shows me teachers don’t give up during hard times. While they were teaching us virtually, they also marched for our safety. This powerful picture represents one of the many times they stood up for us, even during a time that must have been difficult for them too.
Photo of Vernon and Wyatt (3rd Place—Ages 8-12) Vernon Rigdon is a 98-year-old World War II veteran who volunteered to fight on the front lines at age 18 and received many honors including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Mr. Rigdon was prompted to go to war in 1942 because he saw a newsreel showing Americans fighting the Japanese. The very next morning, he enrolled in the Marines and was sent to boot camp in San Diego... Because he had no wife or kids at the time, he always volunteered to be in the front of the line. His time on the battlefield ended in 1944 when he was positioned on a hill, and a sniper in a tree shot him in his lung. He lay bleeding for hours until he got medical help. Now he cannot fully lift up his arm. His stories had never been written down, so I went to visit him in Kansas City to record him. This is a direct quote: "The purple heart is the medal every soldier wants, but they don't all want to pay the price for it." I took this photo of Vernon Rigdon showing his Marine dress uniform to his grandson, Wyatt Rigdon Schmidt. I am so grateful that we have people like him, and it has made me realize just how brave the people are who step up to protect this country that we know and love. It is important that we do not forget history.
When a mysterious band left everything up to interpretation, hate filled the vacuum.
THE KIDIZENSHIP QUIZ
Your final paper for sociology class is due next week. What’s your chosen topic?
Do you follow fashion trends?
What’s your biggest strength?
What’s your dream career?
How do you feel about middle parts?
What does the skull emoji signify to you?
Which generation do you really belong to?
Member of Generation X!
Congratulations — you belong to one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial generations in recent history. You solve tough problems, and you look for solutions others might have ignored. Your relationship with technology is an interesting one — you’re comfortable with using it (you may even be a technological savant) but you don’t feel the need to use it at all times, and you’d prefer an in-person conversation to a digital one. You’re from the land of MTV, post-punk, and Atari Breakout — enjoy it!
Congratulations — you belong to one of the most tech-savvy, accepting generations in recent history. You’re a digital native, and view challenges as a natural part of life while working hard to overcome them. You define your life on your own terms, eschewing arbitrary markers of success in favor of your own fulfilment and sense of civic duty. You belong to the era of the Backstreet Boys and MySpace – own it!
Member of Generation Z!
Congratulations — you belong to one of the most adaptable, pragmatic generations in recent history. A true digital native, you use the Internet and social media with ease while also making time for real life experiences. You indulge various aspects of your personality and interests, and may enjoy several unrelated pastimes or spend time with individuals from all walks of life. You’re incredibly civically conscious, and your beliefs play an important role in the media you consume, the subjects you study, and the causes you support. You’re from the era of Instagram and One Direction — that’s what makes [Generation Z] beautiful!
Member of Generation Alpha!
Congratulations — you’re from what will be the most diverse and well-educated generation in modern history. You’re deeply conscious about your impact on the world, and that consciousness extends to your food choices, travel methods, and media consumption. Your future remains an exciting mystery, and you’re embracing the challenge. After all, you’re from the land of the future — make it a great one!