In the spring of 2018, a group of Union College students took my class called “Millennials and Social Change”. They were in for a surprise. They registered for a course about the rise of the everyday changemaker. It was a class that focused on the current student generation, the Millennials (b. 1980-2000), and the changes they wished to see in their lives and in their communities.
Ten weeks later, the students in this class had become changemakers themselves. They had risen to the challenge with honesty, passion, and ambition and had written personal stories that inspire and give hope to others. Their collective calls for change became this book, Generation Now: Millennials Call for Social Change.
These are their fearless stories. Available on Amazon for only $9.50. All proceeds donated!
Here is a little taste:
Preface: You Get Out What You Put in
Emily Adams: My Trauma Shapes Me, But I’m Not Defined By It
By sharing a personal narrative, Emily explores her experience with relationship violence and puts her story into a #MeToo context, a movement that has contributed greatly to the definition of the Millennial generation. Weaving together her past, present, and future with statistics from various studies on harassment, assault, and abuse in both public and private spaces, Emily aims to give hope to other survivors and to better educate the next generation on these topics.
Taylor Allen: “Labor for Learning”: Understanding Immigration through Family Stories
Immigrants are often painted as alien and misplaced in a land meant for foreigners. This can lead to questions of identity and belonging. Through interviews with several first-generation Americans and her own mother, Taylor explores the complex nature of international identities and the forces that make them so hard to understand. Through these deeply personal accounts, she encourages a shift in perspective to normalize the immigrant experience and humanize those which are perceived to be outsiders by supporting fair legislation and advocacy organizations.
Randi Broadwell: Wanting the Cake and Eating it Too
Randi sheds some light on the unconventional woman. Being called an unconventional woman and unladylike throughout Randi’s life inspired her to approach some of the stigmas surrounding the issues of these ‘masculinized women’ of the Millennial generation. What values should be seen in a woman? How has it affected them in the home, workforce, and how, in Randi’s opinion, should we all begin to combat this issue.
Hana Brown: Conversations With A Goat Girl
It is easy to not involve a child in real world issues, dismissing them as too young. It’s presented as ‘preserving their innocence,’ but in reality, they are being shut out of “real” conversations. Working with children led Hana to understand the importance of honest conversations. A goat-loving girl would be the key to shifting her mindset on how children view the world, and how an open conversation may be the best tool for a child to prepare themselves for the future.
Megan Brown: Who Said It Was “Daddy’s Money?”
Living in the year 2018, one would think that perceptions of men and women in society are beginning to equalize, but we’re not as far along as some people believe. Megan shares her story of growing up in a gender non-traditional household and the experiences she has encountered as a young woman in society. She completes her message with her own research. Megan hopes to encourage women not to be limited by societal perceptions, to be confident in their dreams and aspirations, and to inspire the elimination of any possibility of having an asterisk next to their successes: that they were good “for a girl.”
Kaitlyn Connor: No Child Left Behind…Except You, You, and You
We live in a very hypocritical society. We are constantly fighting for equality, yet when it comes down to it, numerous groups are consistently overlooked. In New York State, the “No Child Left Behind” clause helped guarantee that children with learning disabilities wouldn’t fall behind other classmates. However, there are still children being “left behind.” Kaitlyn shares her experiences with the United Cerebral Palsy School, expressing what she has learned about education for children with severe disabilities and what needs to be done, while additionally sharing her own call to action.
Sasha Currie: OMG, Please Kill Me Now
Throughout social media and various streaming sites, suicide is often romanticized for the purpose of pure entertainment. Most perpetuate the idea that there is a concrete reason behind someone committing suicide. Sasha hopes to eradicate these notions as well as the stigma associated with individuals who seek help through therapy or counseling. She also hopes to encourage other ways in which individuals in society could work towards opening discussions of suicide prevention. This could then aid in decreasing rates of suicide in the U.S.
Giuseppe De Spuches: We Don’t Need No Education
Education is often taken for granted by wealthier communities around the world. However, learning is much more valuable than we might realize. Not receiving an education or understanding how the world works around us, which is common in many underdeveloped countries, will slow down our development as human beings. So what can we do? What has been done? Giuseppe asks: is there a solution to this problem? And if there is, can we expect to see it fulfilled in our lifetime?
Jacques Pierre Treguier: A Solution to Pollution
The world is full of opportunity for good. Pollution is one of the greatest threats to the well-being of humanity. In JP’s opinion, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in education systems can accelerate the process of developing solutions to help us better control our mistreatment of the environment.
Hamza Ghumman: When They Don’t Take You Seriously
Developing countries lack a complete education. Hamza focuses on Pakistan, where he went to school from the 6th to 10th grade. School there never felt like a place where he was growing as an individual. The frustration he felt was shared by countless other students, but he was fortunate enough to have the resources to come back to the United States. Hamza wants to see schools become a place where students are learning outside the classroom, through extra curricular activities and clubs that students will take initiative forming. This he believes to be a first step to reforming the educational system of Pakistan.
Phoebe Hallahan: My Television Romance
As Millennials and Gen Z’ers, we are known as the virtual generations: always attached to our devices, which is usually perceived as a negative. However, television has had a strong positive impact on Phoebe. She would almost go so far as to say it changed her life, and no doubt has had strong impacts on others and can continue to do so.
Brooke Mackenzie: Can You Hear Me or Am I Crazy?: Breaking The Stigma on Mental Health
With a society supposedly as evolved as ours, why is it that people are still being quieted for daring to share their emotions? At what point will it be acceptable for a person to have feelings and be given a platform to positively express them. While it may seem trivial, this emotional oppression has led to a wide-spread issue of stigmatizing mental and emotional health. As a result we see children routinely committing self-harm and people being prescribed medical cocktails. While the issue is complex in nature, the solution is relatively simple: talk about it. Brooke’s challenge to people is to own their whole self and see the beauty in everyone’s courage to fight the idea of there being a “normal.”
Anna Mahony: Life in Plastic is Not Fantastic
Humans are polluting the world. Climate change is becoming an ever-pressing issue that is not garnering as much attention and change as it should. Anna shares her story of learning the importance of sustainability and becoming passionate about the environment through experiences growing up and studying in New Zealand. Specifically, she discusses why education about climate change is important and the small ways people can make a difference in the world.
Kate Osterholtz: The Birds and Bees and Everything In Between
Kate’s story explores how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Through a personal narrative, she discusses the taboo topic of Sex-Ed and normalizing the conversation around all aspects of sex. Through an anecdotal story, as well as evidence from Dutch researchers, she explores what it truly means to be on the cusp of one’s own sexuality. By making this more of an everyday conversation and enforcing comprehensive sex education at a young age, Kate hopes to influence Millennials to make informed choices which develop healthy relationships for generations to come.
Ademilola Oyetuga: The Ones Left Behind: How America is Failing the Poor
In this year of 2018, why are low income/poverty levels still an issue? Why does the quality of education that children receive vary so much, allowing some children to succeed and others to fall behind? What can we do about these problems, asks Ademilola. By providing quality education to kids in underfunded areas, we can work to end the larger issue of poverty in the United States. Education needs to be seen as a basic right for children: independent of socioeconomic status, race, and neighborhood. The children are the future, so let’s work to help them live in a more equitable one.
Hayden Paneth: The Crossed Out, Torn Out Pages
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Hayden shares her personal narrative of a struggle between isolation and education. Despite residing in NYC, this Hasidic girl was isolated from American culture. This article provides an insider’s peek at what it was like growing up confined to the rules, separated from mainstream education, and how Hayden advocates for change in government policy to oversee the quality of Hasidic educational institutions.
Kathleen Sinatra: “But you look fine!”: Navigating High School with an Invisible, Chronic Illness
Humans crave tangibility. But, when your illness is chronic and invisible, navigating life as a high school student can be challenging. Through personal narrative, Kathleen describes her experience as a high school student dealing with chronic Lyme disease. In doing so, she details changes that must be made in the high school education system so as to better support students with invisible illnesses and prepare and empower educators to do the same.
Epilogue: Continue the Wave of Change
Christine Henseler is Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies at Union College, NY. She has developed a website called The Arts and Humanities in the Twenty-first Century Workplace and directed the NY6ThinkTank, a community comprised of educators and students who wish to transform—rethink and rewrite—public conversations on the state of the Arts and Humanities. She has authored several books and articles on Generation X and Spanish literature and digital media, and she is currently working on two book projects on the arts and humanities.Associate Professor of Spanish at Union College. She works on topics pertaining to Generation X, twenty-first century Spanish literature, media and cultural studies, and the humanities. Follow her on Twitter @henselec.