Changemakers embody a new form of leadership needed in our rapidly changing and complex world. Rather than one person leading and others following, today’s new leadership enables everyone to participate through fluid, open collaboration so that everyone can contribute. Matine’s story shows how a group of empathetic young peers learned how to identify a problem, build a team, and implement a solution. Together they are helping other young people realize their power as changemakers.
Matine Khalighi, age 16, was raised in the Bahá'í faith. Bahá'ís, he says, “always believe in youth taking action” and deeply value service. Matine carried these beliefs with him when he enrolled in a community service class at his middle school in Denver, CO. His teacher challenged students to be civic leaders by identifying an issue they are passionate about and taking action. Matine had always been drawn to the issue of homelessness, but didn’t know what he could do to help. Through the course, Matine partnered with classmates Alyssa Gorkin and Ali Ginsburg who were also concerned with the issue of homelessness. Together they felt empowered to take action. Their teacher inspired and guided the team to launch Helping the Homeless Colorado, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending homelessness in Colorado. Matine recalls how important the support from his teacher was. “She told us we could do anything and she would help us,” Matine shares. “She never made it her own project. We always thank her for that.”
Forming a youth leadership board, where everyone has equal power, Matine and his team of co-leaders invite other youth to be agents for social change by taking part in the organization’s targeted outreach. Since its inception three years ago, Helping the Homeless Colorado has distributed over 8,000 meals and 5,000 hygiene kits. The youth-led team also educates peers to challenge public perception about homelessness as well as advocates on behalf of those experiencing homelessness. Matine describes this structure as a three-pillar approach: educate, alleviate, and advocate.
For Matine, however, the hard numbers matter less than the simple fact of service. He believes that young people tackling problems will pave the road towards a better, more inclusive, and more equitable future. Through Helping the Homeless Colorado, Matine says, he works not only to combat homelessness, but also for young people–showing them the power they wield as volunteers, participants, and leaders in their community. Matine describes his path to Helping the Homeless Colorado as following a “calling” – something he believes all youth have inside them and must harness. “I think that everyone can be a changemaker,” he says. “Everyone has something they’re interested in. . . if you find that passion, we’re going to make the world a better place."
Reilly Brooks, Caroline DelAngelo, Lucy Eills, and Claire Fallender contributed to this story.