Victor: Enabling young people to be global citizens

Victor and his team provide a space for young people to explore their passions while developing the necessary skills to start their lifelong changemaking journeys.
Victor AYC Panel 2019

Changemakers recognize that education is much more than rote memorization and regurgitating knowledge. Instead, education should equip people with the mindset, skills, and experience to positively change their world. Victor's story demonstrates how young people are reimagining education by preparing themselves with the skills and experiences to be changemakers. 

In the suburbs of Los Angeles, Victor grew up in a community of Asian immigrants and his parents also immigrated from China. Although Victor’s parents faced a language barrier in the United States, they stressed the importance of education to their children. 

However, Victor’s parents saw education beyond textbook knowledge, but rather education as equipping oneself with the tools and mindset to be a global citizen. His mother especially emphasized the importance of learning about other people’s experiences and encouraged Victor to expose himself in other people’s cultures and customs. 

With his parent’s encouragement, Victor found a passion for reading the news. He remembers routinely searching through Google News to learn about what was happening around the world. 

Globally minded and eager to learn more, Victor became frustrated by his advance coursework. During his sophomore year of high school, he recognized a lack of attention to civic engagement and community service. Instead, he found himself and his friends stressed out by grades rather than focusing their energy on how to prepare for the real world as a global citizens.

Up very late one night studying, Victor confided in his mom about his ambition to create a space for young people to be civic leaders and changemakers. Without question, his mother replied, “do what you love.” 

Shortly after, Victor and his friend from school launched InnvoaYouth. The venture aims to empower students to become community leaders and strengthen their research, collaboration, and communication skills; the skills Victor determined as fundamental to becoming a global citizen. 

Victor’s first workshop had five participants: his mom, his dad, his brother, and two friends at a local community center. From this workshop, Victor expanded his team and started hosting workshops at local community centers, YMCAs, and other nonprofits in his area. 

The workshops focus on developing global citizen skills, like effective public speaking and knowledge about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The end result of the workshops is to invite students to translate what they learned into their own changemaking ideas and projects. 

Being a change maker means not only having an open mind, but being able to work with others to achieve something that is unexpected.

As of Summer 2019, InnovaYouth’s team includes 55 members across 15 states and 3 countries. Over 7,000 students have been engaged through conferences and workshops, forging a community of students enthusiastic about community engagement and sustainable development.

In the past year, Victor has overcome his share of doubts, but views failure as a challenge to creatively reimagine his work and experiment with new ways of working.His philosophy is to ask other young people the question:  “What do you love?” Just like his mother’s advice, Victor encourages his peers to embrace their true passions to become changemakers rather than imposed expectations.

“I think I can even call my parents changemakers too because of their ideas of being able to go beyond what's expected of you,” Victor says, reflecting back on the night that accelerated his changemaking journey. Victor believes his parents always have demonstrated what it meant to go beyond what was expected of them, noting that all young people cannot just follow the status quo. 

“It is very important for everyone to be a changemaker because it is the society that we live in today and especially when so many things are rapidly changing and evolving at a very fast pace, we have to understand how to be able to keep up and be adaptive,” Victor says. Through InnovaYouth, Victor aspires to energize other young people to “go beyond what is expected of [them] and be able to do something you never would have thought of” through changemaking.