Millennials—they tell me—are the lazy generation. Millennials don’t care, and we can’t talk to people face to face. But here’s the thing: while my generation certainly spends our fair share of time on Netflix and Facebook, we are a passionate and caring generation, and we’re committed to social change. In fact, according to a study by Achieve Guidance, 73% of Millennials volunteered for a nonprofit in 2012. Of those, two thirds believed that they could make an impact for a cause they cared about.
Samantha Dietz, a sophomore at Tulane University, exhibited that exact belief when she told me, “I believe that positive social change is possible, and we all have the potential to positively shape our world.” Samantha is a Community Service Scholar at Tulane and spent the summer in the Social Innovation Program at George Mason University.
At George Mason, Samantha and fifteen other students learned how to “become the next generation of social entrepreneurs.”
On top of coursework and pro-bono consulting, they divided into teams of three and “worked on creating a business model canvas for a social venture of [their] creation.” Through this experiential learning, Samantha and her peers discovered what it really meant to implement social change.
And it’s not just George Mason that fosters passionate students. It’s happening on campuses across the nation.
Hannah Finnie is a senior at Emory University and served for the past year as the National Student Director for STAND, the student-led movement to end mass atrocities. As she told me, she was “inspired by the students who were really trying to rally international support for the victims of the genocide in Darfur, and decided to get involved.”
As a result of her dedication and hard work, Hannah was able to attend a United Nations event dealing with sexual violence and conflict—an event whose other guests included actress Robin Wright and Ambassador Samantha Power.
After finishing up her year-long term leading STAND, Hannah is still amazed that “ten students voluntarily gave up tens of hours each week, thousands of hours each year, because they cared so much about conflicts across the world that, realistically, would never really affect their lives.”
So yes, we tweet. Yes, we take selfies. But if you take a second to look deeper, you’ll see pockets of students like Samantha and Hannah all across the country. You’ll see Facebook posts from soup kitchens, and you’ll see students on YouTube rallying for important causes.
In groups of ten or fifteen, in movements to end genocide or just to fight bullying, Millennials are working to make a change.