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Community Empowerment Association’s ‘World Changers’ Program Empowers Youth to become Change Agents for a Better World

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World Changers is a youth driven social and interpersonal anti-violence campaign striving to empower youth, families, and communities to awaken their social consciousness and become change agents that the world needs.

Youth World Changers during the anti-bullying poster campaign.

Since its inception in September of 2019, World Changers has brought together nearly 70 kids from ages 6 to 18 from CEA’s Homewood and McKeesport sites to learn about social activism and organizing. The overall goal? – to empower youth, families, and communities to advocate for change.

An example of a chart the youth were able to make using online tools to highlight the higher risks Black women face during pregnancy.

The program aids youth in identifying and creating awareness campaigns and action plans around issues that are important to them and their communities. Some of their past work includes campaigns around bullying, gun violence, women’s rights, social and racial equity, domestic violence, and more. They learn in-depth community organizing strategies and then lead the implementation of a full campaign – from research, to community engagement, to creation of outreach materials like posters and fact sheets, to the planning of events like panels and forums. From start to finish, the work is led by youth, while CEA staff simply provide tools and guidance to help bring their vision to life.

As young people approaching adulthood, the teens in the program have been especially excited to become more engaged in the broader community and make a difference where it matters most to them. They’ve done everything from holding a panel discussion on human sex trafficking, to organizing a ‘Pizza with Police’ event, to volunteering at all of CEA’s community outreach events, such as their COVID-19 emergency food distributions and their Black Voters Matter event.

  • Photo from Panel Discussion on Human Sex Trafficking.

There’s a “misconception about teens being indifferent,” says World Changers Project Manager Jada Epps. “But they are exposed to the same things we are. And they care about the same things we do. These kids know what they want for their community.”

“These kids know what they want for their community.”

– Jada Epps, World Changers Project Manager

  • Photo from Podcasting workshop.

When COVID-19 hit and restricted in-person gatherings, World Changers had to pivot their programming like so many others. However, the increased time spent online brought to the forefront another avenue for activism – digital organizing. Over the summer, teen participants began to learn how to use social media as powerful platforms for engagement, were able to create graphics and digital posters using free online tools, practice framing a narrative online, and explore new channels they could use to get the word out about social issues. Then, once safety guidelines for in-person learning were in place, the teens were able to access CEA’s multi-media studio equipment, including MAC desktops and up-to-date camera equipment in order to create video PSAs and other digital assets. They even received hands-on podcasting, videography, and photography workshops to complete their digital organizing toolkits.

World Changers is about empowering youth to realize that “there is something to be hopeful for” and “something to work towards” in their communities, says Epps.

This program is simultaneously preparing youth to become community-engaged activists, allowing them to express themselves in creative ways, and providing an outlet for discussion around important issues affecting youth, families, and individuals in the community. In addition, participants are gaining extremely practical skills such as podcasting, videography, and design that they can carry into future careers or entrepreneurial endeavors.

For an after-school, optional activity, these youth are extremely dedicated to their work. Epps says that they’ve even asked to come in on Saturday mornings to continue working on projects! With such passion and determination, these kids are sure to change the world.

We are so proud to showcase this fantastic program. Check out the World Changers page on CEA’s website to stay up to date! The teen participants will be starting a podcast series, soon!

As our 2020 Quality of Life Awardee, CEA is creating healthy neighborhoods by providing for and empowering their community. We are proud to recognize their work!

Follow the 2020 Healthy Neighborhoods Awardee Campaigns on all of our social media channels and by searching #2020HNAwards!

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