Editor’s Note: This article is the runner-up in the Fresh Ink For Teens writing contest. More than 70 contestants from around the country and Israel answered the following question: “What Do You Want Jewish Community Leaders To Know About Teens Today?” The runner up receives a $180 Amazon gift card.
We are the good, the bad and everything in between. We are our mistakes, our failures and our sins. We are Saturday nights taking selfies with red cups, Monday mornings asleep during first period and Thursday evenings procrastinating on Buzzfeed. We are our addictions to the Internet and our obsessions with Instagram. We spend too much money on Starbucks and too much time on Snapchat. We gossip and we lie. And we would join a revolution for the sweet taste of rebellion. No shame. No regrets. YOLO. We’re teenagers and we’re pretty selfish sometimes.
But we are more than all of that. We are determination, action and endless potential. We are Saturday nights spent bent over textbooks, Monday mornings taking tests at 8 a.m. and Thursday evenings coming home after 11 hours in school. We are more AP classes and extracurricular activities than we can count on one hand. We are the presidents of our high schools, the star athletes and the unbelievable virtuosos. We have loud, controversial opinions and we want everyone to hear them.
We believe we’re invincible… but what is so wrong with that? What is so wrong with believing that your dreams can come true? We ignore the skepticism and cynicism that seems to come with age, but we are far from ignorant. We are aware of what is going on in the world around us and just because our eyes are glued to our computer screens doesn’t mean we are blind to everyone else. We have passion in our hearts and fire in our bellies. Our faith in ourselves does not result in naïveté to the harsh realities of this world but in determination to make a difference. And don’t underestimate us; we will make a difference. We already are.
You tell us we’re the “future.” But we are also the present. We’re here right now and we’re ready. We are involved in AIPAC, J-Teen Leadership and Write On For Israel. At the age of 14, Rebecca Kantar founded Minga, a non-profit organization that combats child sex trafficking in the United States and the world. In high school, Nittai Malchin founded One Love Advocates to improve education in communities struggling with destructive or endemic problems, specifically in Haiti. Tatiana Grossman created Spread the Words, a foundation that works to increase literacy rates in Africa and by 16 years old, she had shipped over 23,000 books to approximately 115 villages. These are only three of many examples of Jewish teenagers who saw a problem and took action.
So yes, we have our faults. We are not perfect, but we will never try to be. Because we are not ashamed. We are proud. As Ke$ha preaches, “We R Who We R,” and Lady Gaga affirms, “Baby, we were born this way.” Criticize our priorities and question our decisions, but do not underestimate us.