Massachusetts Student Change Maker Address

Lucas DeLeon

Methuen High School
Methuen, MA

When I first heard my class was participating in Generation Citizen I thought the project would be fun, but, why did I want to put in the effort? It was junior year, I was doing well enough, but why would I want to put in more effort? I didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal with a great impact on me.

At the start of the project, I didn’t agree with the social issue my class picked and really wanted no part in it because I believed it was pointless and that we had no chance making a difference on the issue. In our case, getting the school administration and superintendent to listen to a bunch of students about how to implement parking fees. Like any adult is really going to listen to a bunch of kids. As the project started going I was helping at minimal effort, again, what could we really accomplish? This was going to be a useful lesson, but really, what difference can it make?

As we started discussing ideas I started thinking of some good ideas that got me more involved. As we got into contacting people and the research stage I was placed in the contact group. I remember talking to my classmates in the group and thinking this was stupid. We called the mayor’s office and got his assistant or someone working in the office. I asked her if I could ask her some questions and she said sure. When I started asking she interrupted me and said with a sassy tone that I should be asking these questions to the school committee.

After that, I really thought that this project wouldn’t work cause no one really cared what we had to say. Regardless I scheduled a phone meeting with one of our school committee members, I figured, “ok, one phone call, good practice”. During this meeting I was on my best behavior, respectful and got all the information I needed. The next day the committee member I spoke with contacted my teacher and explained how mature and respectful I was during the call. Being told this boosted my confidence because it was my first time ever doing that and I was very nervous about being rude or making a mistake.

This early success and praise by that school committee member gave me so much confidence going forward, and I started thinking, “hey, wait a minute, I’m really getting into this.” After that- I was more than happy to contact other school committee members about our issue. I scheduled two separate meetings with 4 committee members in which I presented a well put together presentation by my classmates.

My first meeting presenting to them I was very nervous and stressed because I never usually like to present in front of people but after the phone call meeting, I was more confident in my ability to present. The second presentation I was significantly more confident and had little to no nerves about it. Learning how to speak and present in front of important public figures really helped me be prepared for later in life when I ever have to present for a job or say a speech. Ha like this one.

When we got to the point of setting a goal I knew it would be difficult with our issue from our point of view, seeing how we wanted to prevent the parking fees but they were happening anyways so it seemed pointless. I thought out of the box and changed our point of view on the topic while setting the goal, from fighting against the fees to supporting them, but with increased student voice. I thought about the information I learned from talking to the school committee members, how the money from the fees was going directly to repairing the parking lot and realized that this would help us, and I was helping make that change. I was getting great support for our idea and that’s when I really started getting involved, I set our goal to be for the parking fees with student involvement on the planning and rules.

During this process contacting the school committee was a lesson in itself. I learned how to write a professional email with the right grammar, setup, and phrasing.

Another lesson I got from this project was the impact the youth have in today’s society. As I spoke with school committee members and my principals, they didn’t just answer our questions but they asked us our opinions and ideas and told us that what we have to say is important. This really impacted me cause it showed me that people do care about input from the youth.

Seeing that they cared about what the students had to say, we decided to send out surveys to the entire school to get their input and they had some great ideas we never thought of, such as “if we got personal spots can we use hooks on mirrors for our number instead of stickers in case we need to switch cars”. This idea hadn’t even crossed my mind at all. Some kids switch cars with their parents and wouldn’t have the sticker on both cars.

I learned that having other people’s input is very important when trying to make a change because you never know what ideas you might miss that other people will think of that can help in many different ways. Before I was more of a get it done myself without help kind of person. Now I see the importance of getting help and ideas from other people, which really can help shape the future.

By the end of the Generation Citizen project I was completely changed. I’m now confident enough to go out and make a change in other issues. I can create a presentation and present it to people with confidence and without rushing through it and talking fast. I know the process of making a change and how to reach out to important people to gather information and schedule meetings. I also learned how to reach out to other people like me who want to make a change for help and ideas.

I’ve learned how to become active in today’s society thanks to Generation Citizen and I’m excited to say that I’ve been so impacted by this project; the school administration nominated me to attend the Boys State Leadership Conference this summer to increase my leadership and political skills, which I never would’ve thought possible at the beginning of this project! I’m very excited and hope I get to learn more about impacting the world because that’s the biggest lesson I’ve taken from this- we can go out and change the world!

Thank you!