Millennials have been known to become actively involved in many service projects. Their use of technology and knack for innovation make them versatile and creative in any situation. However, in a controlled classroom experience, I witnessed a disturbing trend emerge.
Earlier this year there was a Youth Venture program at my school, which encouraged high school students to apply for service project grants. Students in my class had the opportunity to present before a panel to see if their project would be chosen. To my surprise, only one person in my class wanted to present for a grant – and he already had a pre-existing project at that.
Confused, I set off to understand a question that has been bugging me for quite a while: what exactly is stopping us, as Millennials, from going out there and making a difference in our communities today?
At the forefront was money; the cursed, inanimate object required for the most petty of aspirations. This was easy to understand why, as people in high school (and I do imagine this would ring off also for those in college) usually do not have financially backing to lean upon. Even with grant money, many students didn’t want to reach into their own pockets. It’s a shame that money plays such a big part in our ideas. But I also think with some wise decision-making and adjusting, projects could be toned down to affordability. Being ambitious should not be equivalent to being expensive.
Another major factor was time. With so many people in high school involved in sports or extra-curriculars, this should have been understandable. But scheduling wasn’t the conflict here. My fellow classmates simply didn’t want to take the time to start a non-profit organization, tutoring program, etc. Many did not want to take the project into college, summers were off limit to that type of work, etc. It was befuddling to see people realize how viable their project could be, only to then push it off because of some sort of “time” excuse.
Yes, time is definitely a factor. But if you are truly interested in changing your community, I believe you would make time. Don’t half-heartedly pursue your goal, because that’s the one way to make the hours drag on. Be serious, do research, make moves. And if it turns out you really don’t have time, so be it. But if along the way something catches your eye, that’s something invaluable to build upon.
The two reasons listed above are in many ways legitimate and good excuses. In the future, I hope to write a blog that goes more in depth on both and how to swerve around them. However, there is one more that disturbed me on a deeper level:
The idea that someone else would do it.
That you didn’t need to go through with your plan because someone else out there in that big world of ours would have the time, and the money, to do a better job than you. I can’t count how many times I thought a student had a great plan, only to toss it because it had been already been attempted or “If so-and-so can’t do it ,how can I?”.
Many Millennials are quitting before they even start.
Interestingly enough, everyone was aware of the much-needed difference they could make within a community.
This wasn’t a question of their ability to accomplish what they planned; they rejected the notion of applying for a grant simply based off of the commitment they might have to take. In other words, while they understood what they were capable of, they refused to believe that it would be them who would ultimately undertake the task. This was the worst excuse by far, because I doubt anyone who has ever made a difference considered it someone else’s responsibility or job.
This was an eye-opening experience for me, and something that there is an answer to. In Part 2, I hope to explore how exactly Millennials today can avoid, or even confront these problems.
Nathan Chen is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. He lives in Seattle, Washington and thoroughly enjoys the activism-infused setting he lives in. His personal goal is to, in any way possible, gain recognition for The Millennial Generation while also helping it realize its full potential. In the future he wishes to pursue a career in law or journalism, with an intent to serve others.