Student Activism On a (Time) Budget

By Aine Pipe

Activism is more fun with friends!

From honors classes to soccer practices and everything in between, the lives of most students can be incredibly busy. With school responsibilities like getting good grades, getting into a good college (if that’s one’s plan) and responsibilities at home, like chores or babysitting siblings, or even an after-school job, activism often gets lost in the shuffle. However, just as we owe it to our family and to ourselves to complete the responsibilities I listed above, we owe it to our world to do activism. The fact of the matter is that the world has problems, and they will not be fixed by sitting on the sidelines. Just as your room won’t clean itself or your homework won’t do itself, neither will the world become a better place by itself.

This isn’t to say that you should drop everything and commit yourself to activism for every waking hour of your life. As nice as it would be if possible, school and family responsibilities do come first. Fortunately, our responsibilities to ourselves and our families are not as exclusive as they might seem. So, without further ado, I present to you activism on a (time) budget.

Tip 1: Self-Care

In order to make the world a better place, you can start first by making sure that you are in a good place yourself. This includes, but is not limited to the following things: eating a healthy diet, making sure you get proper rest, taking any needed medication, doing what you need to do to get into a good headspace, surrounding yourself with positive people, and making sure that you have an outlet to remove negative energy. This could mean writing in a journal, making the time to do things you enjoy, exercise, or speaking to a school counselor or mental health professional about any struggles you may be dealing with.

Once you’ve established a foundation of your own self-care and have your own needs met, you’re ready for Tip 2!

Tip 2: Self-Education Is Activism

This is something Pierce Delahunt, an amazing YEA Camp counselor, taught me at my latest session of YEA Camp, and it completely changed my life. As teenagers, we face a world the scale of which is often beyond our comprehension. Real-world issues are complex, and they often take knowledgable people to solve. Thus, educating yourself is absolutely a form of activism. Even staying abreast of current events or learning a new vocabulary word (especially if said word replaces a problematic word or phrase) can be a form of activism. This isn’t to say that learning about integrals and derivatives will help save the world (side note: if anyone can tell me how to use calculus in activism, I will be forever indebted to you for making calculus less useless to me), but the studies of history, language, art, and science can fashion extraordinary tools for activism!

As you learn more about the causes you care about, you will be more confident and effective in taking action to help. You can start by learning from organizations working on causes you care about. Check out this list on YEA Camp’s website. Follow groups on social media to learn more and get updates on current events and action alerts.

Tip 3: Keep a Calendar

A great way to manage your time and make room for activism is to keep a calendar of events and major due dates. This allows you to plan out your week, or even month, ahead of time so that you can clear certain dates where important events are occurring. For example, say there’s a protest on a certain day, but you know a paper is due the next day. A calendar allows you to see that more clearly and you can plan accordingly and get the essay done earlier. If you are part of a school club or are working on a bigger project or campaign, creating a list of actions to take (like talking to your principal or passing out flyers) and assigning due dates to them (even if they aren’t exactly “due” on any given day) can help you keep track of everything and make sure your plans actually happen.

Tip 4: Incorporate Activism Into Your Everyday Life

Activism, according to YEA Camp’s definition, is simply taking action for the betterment of our world with an eye for the big picture. However, just because the picture is big doesn’t mean small actions don’t add up to a big impact. Something as simple as talking to your friends can bring valuable allies to your cause. Additionally, if you have a project to do or paper to write, you can try to find ways to work in activist topics (e.g. an essay on The Scarlet Letter or Jane Eyre could easily take a feminist angle). You can share your views in class discussions, or wear activist t-shirts and spread your message that way. Writing for the school paper is another great way to spread your message, as journalism is about giving a voice to the voiceless.

Tip 5: Prioritize

Obviously, homework and chores are important, but so is activism. Prioritization is a great way to manage your responsibilities to yourself, your family, and the world. So, if an important math test is coming up, that might take priority one day. If a relative is coming to visit and you need to help with housework, then that would take priority. Especially when you’re busy, daily actions through your diet, purchasing choices, or speaking up for people can be more of your focus. Even a few minutes of sharing something important on social media or signing online petitions can be a great quick thing you can do. On days where there’s no school work, activism can take priority. Another way to show priority is to do activism in different spheres of your life. For example, if you’re planning to hang out with friends, suggest you do activism together! I’ve gone to marches with my best friends. Activism with friends is a great way to help the world and strengthen your bond!

So, if you’re an AP freak like me or a theater kid or a jock, just remember to uphold your responsibility to the world! Time management can be hard, but the payoff is well worth it.

Know when you will have time to devote to activism? In the summer — when you can join us at YEA Camp and take your activism to new heights! We even have a session for adults

Aine Pierre has been involved in activism from a very young age on behalf of animals, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. Her latest project is advocating for student press freedoms in her state, working alongside the former director of the Student Press Law Center. Aine lives at home on the east coast with her three wonderful furry siblings and is a stressed AP-taking junior at her high school.

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