“I always wanted to have a positive impact on the world. With this route, you can shape it how you want.”
“Being an introvert simply means that I am self-sufficient and like to deal with my own problems. It does not mean I cannot be a leader. ”
You may or may not have seen the heart-warming story about a high school senior, Taylee Smith, from Springville High School in Utah. She has Down Syndrome and, for every other game in her basketball career, she served as the women’s team manager. On Senior Night, however, her team, as well as their opposition, made an incredibly kind gesture to show their appreciation for Smith’s hard work and dedication.
Smith was the first member of the team to walk onto court. She was also the first player, on either team, to score for the evening. Smith’s layup from a bounce pass gave Springville High School a 2-0 lead, but the opposition didn’t care. Following the layup, the entire student section proceeded to cheer Smith’s name while jumping up and down in support of her unyielding commitment to the team and school.
This was clearly an event planned by the students of Springville High School. It wasn’t just Smith’s teammates and classmates, but all of the students and coaches associated with the opposing team who wanted to participate as well. These three groups of incredible teenagers – Smith’s teammates, the school body, and the opposing team – wanted to do something special for a fellow student who had, in all likelihood, never been the center of so much positive attention and love-filled energy.
Sports, at any level, can be quite competitive and, in some cases, even dirty. Too often, there’s a “me first” or “our team has to win” mentality associated with athletics. This story, however, demonstrates a breakdown in this kind of thinking and truly exemplifies the meaning of sportsmanship. Whereas similar events allow honorary teammates to score points in the closing minutes of a winning game, what the students at Springville High School planned was even more exceptional because Smith’s basket could have won or lost the game for either team.
Not only does this story exemplify the absolute best of high school athletics, it also demonstrates how impactful a community of teens can be. Smith and her family will never forget this game and neither will the students who planned and executed it.
Contributed by Amanda Vosloh Bowyer
Changemakers is a companion series to Gamechangers, following teens outside of the GLA circle who have made a profound difference in the world or in their own communities.
You may think that as a teenager there isn’t much you can do to help others. You may think you have yet to develop any kind of special skills or that you just can’t do anything until after you graduate college and all that, but it’s simply not true. There are numerous teenagers out there in high school, college, and even some in junior high, taking action to make the world a better place. You could very well be the next one.
Let’s take a look at one teen whose actions have changed the lives of many of her peers in a positive way, a true gamechanger. Meet Mary Grace Henry. By day, she’s just a normal, everyday teenager from Harrison, NY going about her routine school life. But on the side, she’s done something truly spectacular.
She started a nonprofit called Reverse The Course at the young age of 12. Her goal was to improve the lives of the underprivileged by providing money to fund education for girls in extreme poverty. This was her goal, but she knew she had to get the money somehow. So she decided to teach herself how to make reversible headbands. She then put them up for sale on the internet through her website and a smart use of social media with 100% of the profits going to fund these girls’ educations.
Now, she’s 18 years old and still going at it strong. She continues to sell the hairbands, and she was honored in 2014 with the World of Children Award for her distinguished efforts. Her website states her efforts have put 115 girls in four African countries through school since her venture began, with 251 years of school paid for and over 16,000 headbands sold to fund it all.
On why she chose this particular venture she said, “The greatest obstacle to education faced by both girls and boys is poverty. Girls, though, face a second hurdle that is far more difficult to address: their culture. In many countries throughout the world, girls are viewed as having not just lesser value than boys, but often devastatingly little or no value.”
Mary Grace is an inspiration to all of us who thought there was nothing we can do for the good of others. Even a simple skill like making a headband can translate itself into making a huge difference for those around the world. As Mary Grace herself says, “My advice is just to begin. When you see a need, act. Dream big, but start small, taking little steps.”
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and just begin. Make a difference in your community or around the world. Even small things eventually add up to something great.
Contributed by Nick Bartholomew