“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” The words from this 80s pop song by Whitney Houston have been looping through my mind for the past five days. I’ve spent the past week looking through the viewfinder of my camera and seeing the faces of teenagers staring back at me -- their eyes shining with hope and their mouths speaking words that will ignite change in their communities.
World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) concluded their fifth annual summit last Friday in Washington, D.C. As the summit's videographer, I witnessed teens from all over the country speak of their diverse struggles, unique cultural challenges, and the problems they face in bringing transformation to their neighborhoods. Over and over, as I shot their stories and experiences, I saw youth voices come together with a message so great that everyone is compelled to listen.
On Thursday, that message compelled our nation's leaders to hear them, too. In a time when the problems our nation faces are overwhelming -- where the polarization between the parties and within the system seem too great -- it was the passion of these teen delegates that bridged the divide. In the space of a few minutes, the political noise was silenced, and the possibility of taking action became a reality through their stories and proposals.
Sometime during the week, I heard it said that youth aren’t our future; they are our present. I don’t know what's ahead for any of us. But when I look into my viewfinder and into the eyes of these teenagers, the future looks amazing.
I made this video recap of the week's events that was shown at the summit's end-of-week gala, where the students' hard work is celebrated and honored. It represents less than a couple minutes worth of YEP moments. But each one of the faces in this video represents so much more -- a story, a dream, and a voice that is advocating for a better future. And it's their voices that are the sound that changes everything.