Fall 2015: “Justice For All” Middle School Winner Cate Landry

Read Cate's essay, "Stay Tuned to Change the World" about how TV can educate us on the endless opportunities to create change.

Cate Landry, a student of Katie Miles at Horizons K-8 School in Boulder, Coloradoread and responded to the online YES! Magazine article “I Can’t Breathe Until Everyone Can Breathe,” by Gerald Mitchell. In this story, author and entrepreneur Gerald Mitchell wrestles with the enormity of the situation in Ferguson and the unjust deaths of so many unarmed Black Americans by police. He takes an honest look at himself to see how he’s part of the problem, and commits to joining others in building a better world of justice for all. 

Writing Prompt: Like Gerald Mitchell, dig deep to identify and explain how you personally can treat people more justly. Describe what treating people fairly and humanely looks like to you. How might your actions make a difference where you live (school and community)? In greater society?

Stay Tuned to Change the World

We have all done it. You sit down on the couch, turn on the news. You nervously watch as a news anchor reports another brutal story. You watch until you can’t take it anymore. You quickly turn it off and think it’s better to just ignore the injustices. You think that if you ignore them, they’ll go away. Until two years ago, I thought that was completely okay. I thought that if I didn’t know about the inhumanities in our world, they didn’t exist. But then I had an experience that led me to the truth: ignorance does not resolve issues. Action, not ignorance, is the solution.

Two years ago, I participated in a school project that changed my life—and the world. Forty of my classmates and I educated ourselves about global issues, like barriers to education that leave many girls around the world without the rights they deserve. Did you know that 66 million girls globally do not have the opportunity to attend school? That’s 66 million lives that don’t have a bright future.

We reached out to our local community and educated others about this global injustice. We started with small steps, organizing bake sales, making t-shirts, and hosting a film screening of the award-winning documentary, Girl Rising. Realizing that education is what these girls needed, we raised over $4,000, which we used to sponsor the tuition and school supplies for four girls from Kenya. The experience was overwhelmingly humbling. I was only a twelve-year-old girl at the time, but I felt that I had made a difference in overcoming a global injustice. I felt a sense of empowerment—that I could change the world. It was in that moment I realized ignorance is not the way to get rid of a problem; in fact, it’s not helping at all.

From then on I made a promise to myself. I promised that I would never turn off the TV again. Well, not literally. But I did promise myself to never again think that it is okay to be ignorant, to never again believe that what I don’t know won’t hurt me. Recognizing the problem is the first step to resolving an issue. But don’t stop there. What else can we do? Let’s be realistic here. One person can’t send 66 million girls to school. So let’s start with the small stuff.

Educate yourself on the issues of the world. Become an expert on the problem, and then activate your power to create change. Nothing is going to change if you wait for it. Get involved in your community and support organizations that are already making a difference for these causes— or start your own. Educate others. Awareness and education will spread like wildfire. The faster we take these steps to get involved, the faster we will change the world and become a more just society.

Not only did the Girl Rising project change the lives of four girls in Kenya, it also changed the lives of people in my community here in Boulder, Colorado. People from all over the city attended the film screening. Everyone wanted to support the cause and help make a change in the world. Even my friend’s little brother donated some of his allowance to the fund after seeing the film. Together, we had made a difference and all it took was a little effort and energy.

So let’s start putting in that extra effort. Let’s start educating ourselves and others. Let’s start teaching people that we are the ones who have to build our own future. It’s easier now than ever before. The use of technology to communicate globally is rapidly growing, and our opportunities to help change the world are increasing. There are endless possibilities out there—all at our fingertips. If we take these actions, step-by-step, our world will become a better place. And trust me, once we start taking these actions nothing will stop us.

Next time you sit down on the couch after a long day to flip through the news, I encourage you to keep watching. Remember that there are inhumanities all around us and ignoring them won’t solve the world’s problems. Don’t change the channel, because ignorance is not the path to justice; what we don’t know will hurt us. Keep the TV on to raise your awareness and change the world. Keep the TV on and think of small steps you can make to create a future that is more just and humane. A future that is bright.

Inspiration in Your Inbox

Get the free daily newsletter from YES! Magazine:
Stories of people creating a better world to inspire you and your students.

Sign Up