Nurturing Your Global Citizen – Empowering Youth to Change the World

As virtual distances shrink, a new generation of plugged-in kids is growing up to be global citizens who use their tech fluency to expand their worldview. It’s a good thing too, because our global communities are increasingly interconnected, and so are the problems of our time.


More than likely, our kids’ future neighbors and colleagues will come from a culture different than their own. More than likely, they will collaborate with minds around the world on issues that affect us all. The intercultural understanding that comes with global citizenship will help these kids come together to solve the complex social, economic, and environmental issues we face.


Employers and educators are coming to understand that a whole new set of skills is required of 21st century learners; and kids are acquiring those both in and out of the classroom. This is in part due to the growing imperative recognized by the leaders and educators involved in P21’s framework, and also in part to changes in the way we regard youth.


It’s been a fortuitous meeting of educational imperative with advances in attachment science that has propelled us to embrace our kids’ curiosities and passions more than ever before. Not only are teachers asking students to create, collaborate, communicate, and think critically, kids are more driven to do so, as this call is echoed at home and in communities.


These globally-minded kids view our world as one integrated system, understanding that the problems that affect people across the globe also affect us here at home.They get that we’re all responsible for the well-being of our world and its people. They are embracing diversity, thinking critically about issues that matter, and orienting toward empathy in the spirit of true global collaboration.


Twenty-first century youth are increasingly asked to connect self and world, to understand how they fit in the big picture, and to be aware of how their existence relates to the other citizens of this world. Creative curriculums geared toward 21st century skills and old fashioned ingenuity are helping kids pave the way. There are some amazing kids out there doing some incredible things in the spirit of global citizenship.


One prime example is youth organization Earth Guardians, a driving force in the environmental protection movement. At over 1000 crews around the globe (and growing) the group empowers youth through creativity, collaboration, and intelligent use of technology, as they tackle serious issues in their communities. Facebook has virtually connected over 100,000 individuals around the world to engage with Earth Guardians. Here in the US, their critical thinking has led the group to use the legal system to change the system, by actually bringing suit  – and winning – against the federal government for the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy future. In this manner they have succeeded in banning fracking in Colorado and are forcing corporations to reduce CO2 emissions to a sustainable 350 ppm. Financial proceeds from the suits go to implementing a specific recovery plan developed by climate scientists, including mass reforestation.


Earth Guardians is led by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (his first name is pronounced ‘Shoe-Tez-Caht’) – a 2013 United States Community Service Award recipient, and youngest of 24 national changemakers chosen to serve on President Obama’s youth council – this seriously organized group is actively impacting environmental policies around the globe and for the good of future generations. Their youth council members have addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on seven separate occasions, including at the formal signing of the Paris Agreement.


While Earth Guardians sets the bar pretty high, there are plenty of important and impactful ways kids can take action themselves. If your global citizen is itching to get more involved, here are some jumping-off points to help them get the ball rolling:


For Elementary-Aged Kids and Younger


Kid World Citizen has lots of activities and art projects to try. Its positive focus is on education and what you can do to help.


For Teens


Teen Guide to Global Action featuring profiles of real “Difference Makers” from around the world and practical tools readers can use to support causes they are passionate about.


And, here are some action points to get the creative juices flowing:  


Think Critically


What problem are you trying to solve?




What are you passionate about? How will you make your contribution stand out?




Who is passionate enough to work with you?




What uses of technology will best help spread your message?


If you are an adult who recognizes the importance of fostering global citizenship in a kid you love, Xiuhtezcatl has some sound advice, “If you open up a space, if you allow for conversation, if you offer tools and resources and connections for young people to use, show them examples of other young people that are doing amazing things, then they will take it upon themselves to use their passion, their creativity, the wisdom and the humanity that they have to build solutions creatively to the greatest issues of our times.


Jenny Kepler, MA, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and writer who has been helping families navigate parenthood for over ten years. Her office is in downtown Portland, OR where she does in person therapy with adults, couples, and families. She also offers parent coaching over the phone for people who can’t see her in Portland.





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