Shelby: How can a small group of students make big changes in the world? Well, across the U.S., groups of teens have made it their mission to help those in need, both at home and abroad.
From urban neighborhoods in the United States to rural villages in the Asian country of Nepal, these American teens are digging a foundation for the future, a school for kids halfway across the world. They are part of a volunteer program called Build On, which was started by this man, Jim Ziolowski.
Jim Ziolowski: What we do is mobilize urban high school students across the United States to do two things: they do intensive service work, working with elders and homeless people and younger children in their own communities, and they build schools in different developing countries around the world.
Shelby: Developing countries are those struggling to find stability, like Haiti, Kenya or Libya. And they often receive aid from developed countries, like the United States.
Twenty years ago, while backpacking in Nepal, Jim was touched by the opening of a new school there.
Jim: I was trekking up in to the mountains, and I was passing through a village. They were celebrating the opening of a school and it was a two-day celebration. They never went home, like it was 48 hours. They were so excited, so fired up about this school that they had built.
Shelby: It was at that moment, amidst the poverty, that Jim realized what he really saw.
Jim: In addition to the poverty, I saw hope and I saw courage and I saw determination.
Shelby: The same determination that Jim says he sees in young people here in the U.S.
When jim returned home to his corporate job in New York, he couldn’t let go of what he experienced in nepal. So, he took action. He started Build On, an after school program for inner-city kids who want to make a difference in their communities.
Jim: We so believe that youth are not only the future, which they clearly are, but they are the present and they are transforming our communities and changing the world.
Shelby: How does Build On inspire them educationally?
Jim: When you get involved in Build On, you start connecting with a bigger community. You start impacting and lifting up your own neighborhood. It is happening because students are united, you know, by a common purpose. They have dedicated themselves to transforming the world.
Shelby: The organization is now 20,000 strong. On any given weekend, you can find Build On teens feeding the homeless, playing cards with the elderly and caring for the disabled.
Volunteer: Instead of me sitting at home on Saturdays and watching TV, I actually get out of the house to work.”
Shelby: Build On teens, like Sherece, have racked up more than 700,000 hours of service and have touched the lives of nearly a million-and-a-half people around the world.
Each year, Jim takes his American Build On teens to developing countries to build schools. They just started their 400th school and have plans to build 60 more by the end of the year. But it won’t stop there.
Jim: Right now, there are 63,000 children, parents and grandparents attending Build On schools. Twenty years from now, we want there to be 1 million children, parents and grandparents attending schools around the world that American students are helping to build.
Volunteer: It makes me think that I could do anything if I work for it. Not to ever give up.
Shelby: Empowering students and communities, local and abroad, Build On plans to do just that.
Jim: American students have a voice; it is a powerful voice. More importantly, they are taking action. They are part of something bigger. They have created something bigger and are changing their communities. They are changing the world.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.