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You Be the Change — an Open Letter to Teenagers

You Be the Change — an Open Letter to Teenagers

You did it! Your voice was heard in a huge way through the #Enough National School Walkouts and March For Our Lives rally in DC and other cities including NYC, Boston, Chicago and LA. Thousands of you protested against gun violence in schools and honored those killed by a lone gunman at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine's Day.

Now it's time for you to take it to the next level and get to the root of the school violence. The culture on your campus of meanness, bullying (physical, emotional & cyber), anger, violence and disconnection needs to change. The transformation starts with you. Don't wait on politicians and other adults to try to change things. You have the power to be the change now.

There's timeless wisdom that's found in something called the "Golden Rule." It's simple but powerful: "treat others the way you want to be treated." Imagine the huge difference in schools — and in our world — this could make if we'd all just practice it.

Be a contagious example of this to others at school, home and in your community. With the "Golden Rule" as a foundation, there are additional practical things you and your friends can do to change the culture of your school.

Be aware of lonely people on campus who are falling through the 'cracks' socially. Be kind and considerate to the outcasts; kids that may be different then you. Outward violence often begins with inner loneliness. Reach out. Let them know they matter and that you care.

Help identify and find treatment for mental illness. Do the same for those with serious anger problems that need to get it under control. Angry people hurt others. Violence begins with disconnection.

Look for those who seem stressed out and overwhelmed by school, family issues or natural disasters. You don't have to say much. Listen, be empathetic and offer support.

Kate called our radio show to tell us how she beat bullying. Her advice was simple: "Talk to people outside of school. I like to think of it as wearing armor. And if you don't have people around you who are loving you and telling you good things, your armor is going to be weak and everything can penetrate it. But if you're surrounding yourself in love, that armor becomes 10 times harder."

Come together in respect for other students, teachers, coaches and government leaders. You may not agree with them; their policies or even like them as people. But we need to treat others with respect. It begins when we learn to respect ourselves.

Serve others rather than push self-entitlement. Put the needs of others first — ahead of yours. You'd be surprised what a difference you can make.

At the core of every major movement in history have been teenagers. Now it's your chance to turn your passion into action; take the risk and make history by changing the culture of your school. It won't be easy. But you can do it.

I'm one of many who believe in you and stand ready to empower you to be the change and start a movement (#changemycampus) to create a culture of kindness, respect and encouragement on your campus.

Steve Russo is an author, radio/TV host, drummer and communicator who has spoken in 35 states and 29 countries. He is a frequent speaker on middle school and high school campuses with his Choices assembly program. Steve holds a bachelor's and a master's degree from Biola University and is a graduate of the Arrow Leadership Program.

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