Katie: Building a national community of young people creating change
Amidst a rise in youth organizing, Katie equips youth-led advocacy organizations with the connections, resources, and encouragement they need. Her story demonstrates the power and courage of young people combating the issues that matter most for their generation and the planet.
Growing up, Katie Eder always recognized caring for other human beings as her responsibility, and igniting collective power as her passion. Building on a lifetime of organizing for social justice issues, she co-leads the Future Coalition - an organization that connects and equips youth-led advocacy organizations and individual ‘freelance’ youth organizers to launch their campaigns and scale their impact.
Katie’s changemaker journey began in fourth grade when she started a sit in that convinced her gym teacher to let boys and girls play games together during class for the first time. Katie cites this as the first time she realized that, “just because something is how it is, doesn't mean that it has to stay that way. And we as an individual and as a collective have the power to change something if we don't think it's right.”
When she arrived in middle school, Katie noticed her peers’ lack of enthusiasm for writing - something she had always found to be a positive outlet for expression - and knew she had the power to shift their mindsets. She created her first venture, Kids Tales, by leading a week-long creative writing workshop at her local community center.
Now, it has expanded to over 12 US cities and nine countries, reaching over 1,200 kids, and inspiring more than 250 teen teachers to share their passion for writing with others. She was able to pass Kids Tales on to new young leaders, giving her the capacity to focus on something new.
In the wake of a major school shooting in the US, a wave of young people began to rise up and demand to have their voices heard and become more involved with civic engagement. Naturally, Katie was one of them. She sought out her school district superintendent’s approval of a walkout, and was met with encouragement: “he ended up challenging us in a really good way… he said, 'what are you going to do to make sure that after the walk-outs on March 14th, after March For Our Lives, that people don't stop hearing about gun violence?'”
With the support of her superintendent, a state representative, a lawyer, four friends and a few parents, the 50 Miles More march was born. Katie rallied about 50 young people to march 50 miles over the span of four days - chanting, making friends and sleeping in high school gyms along the way - to demand legislative action on gun control.
Katie and her team were buzzing with excitement from their work, and all of the incredible youth-led organizations they saw emerging around them. But they noticed a problem: the were disconnected from each other. Katie knew they key to big impact was collaboration, “...so we decided to create the Future Coalition to really have a place for youth organizers and youth activists to come together, to work together and to find resources and support that would allow them to grow the impact in the work that they were doing.”
The first big event following Future Coalition’s formation? The November 2018 Midterm Elections. Having had great success with their previous walkouts and marches, Katie and the team coordinated their first campaign, Walkout To Vote. High school and college students - regardless of age - were encouraged to walk out of class on Election Day. After walking out, together, they marched to the polls. Those of voting age cast their ballot, while ‘future voters’ cheered them on. All brought signs, chanted, and continued to rally and draw on their collective power. Not only did the campaign gain national attention, it also had measurable success: the youth vote rose from 21% to 31%.
Since then, Future Coalition community has grown to include 40 youth-led organizations and support hundreds of other freelance organizers through an online and in-person network, and the “Future Accelerator” program connecting young people with adult mentors. Most recently, Katie cites climate change as her “biggest passion that [she’s] fighting for,” along with the rest of Future Coalition. They’re taking a leading role in multiple climate strikes, and supporting the young plaintiffs of the Juliana v. United States court case against climate inaction. In Katie’s words, “If we don't have an Earth, nothing else really matters.”
Looking back, Katie credits her success and the growth of young people engaged in changemaking to the development of a changemaker community. “I think we're always stronger together. I think that when people feel like they have a community and when people feel like they're connected to something bigger than themselves, that change is always greater.” She seeks to amplify that connection and provide it to others through Future Coalition.
Katie considers it a privilege to support other changemakers through Future Coalition every day. “Being able to support other young people in their changemaking journeys...is the best job ever because it gives me the opportunity to be able to not only identify and bring into our community other changemakers, but to be able to make sure that they feel like they have the tools in their toolbox to be able to create the change that they want to see.”
Julia Tessler and Alyssa Clark contributed to this story.