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Davidson Ambassador Spotlight Q&A – Vaccine Advocacy, Understanding Money, Connecting with Peers

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The purpose of the Young Scholars Ambassador Program is to foster learning and civic engagement through community service, volunteerism and leadership in highly motivated and mature Young Scholars. In this article, three 2022 Ambassadors share how they have helped make a positive difference in the lives of others and more! 

Young Scholar Ambassador ArinArin Parsa

Project: Teens for Vaccines

What are some past and present projects you’ve worked on to help make a positive difference in the lives of others?

I’m a Davidson Ambassador, a ninth-grader at Stanford Online High School, and the founder of Teens for Vaccines Inc., a vaccine advocacy youth organization honored by the United Nations Youth Envoy, the White House, and the media for its ongoing impact. I’m also the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Teen Opinions Matter, a global teen blog listed on NY Times Learning Network, with readership in over 15+ countries.

I founded Teens for Vaccines during the 2019 measles outbreaks, when many distraught teens of vaccine-hesitant and anti-vax parents were going to Reddit and other social media to know how to get vaccines to protect themselves. To me, it was gut-wrenching that children in modern times still faced threats from the same diseases plaguing us 50 and even 100 years ago. Since then, I have been tirelessly advocating for every child’s right to life-saving vaccines and healthcare. Today, Teens for Vaccines has over 45+ ambassadors in over 15 states empowering youth to be public health ambassadors, in partnership with GENup, a 4000+ student member organization.

We help teens and adults find trusted sources for COVID-19 and other vaccines, hold educational events for teens to interact directly with medical experts, consult with nonprofits and state health departments for teen outreach, report disinformation on social media, and champion legislation for public health and vaccine equity, including empowering teens to self-consent to life-saving vaccines.

Young Scholar Ambassador Arin being interviewedWhat are some of your short-term and long-term plans?

Teens for Vaccines grew out of my research into factors affecting adolescent vaccine rates and I believe that there is a lot more to do to improve equitable vaccine access for all teens. So, I plan to keep growing the teen network to get more teens involved along with forging partnerships with other youth organizations. I encourage young scholars to join us! Also, I’m working with a national nonprofit to co-sponsor several legislations in California and other states for teen vaccine access and I will continue to push for these.

How has the Young Scholars program helped you to reach your goals and achieve your accomplishments?

Being a Young Scholar, I was able to apply to the highly enriching Davidson Ambassador program! The Ambassador program’s seminars truly gave me a framework to plan and scale Teens for Vaccines. The strategic plan seminar in particular helped me deeply think about my project’s mission and vision, goals and concrete objectives, and how I could devise a set of strategies and action steps towards those objectives. Also, seminars on developing relationships, networks validated a lot of what I was doing naturally by contacting various organizations.

Ultimately, being a part of an inspiring cohort, learning from each other, Think Tanks for exchanging our ideas, and above all, Ms. Nuntiya Smith’s encouragement and timely guidance, helped catapult Teens for Vaccines! I’m truly grateful for the opportunities I have received as a Davidson Young Scholar and Ambassador!

Young Scholar Ambassador Timothy Leung

Timothy Leung

Project: Money Matters

What are some past and present projects you’ve worked on to help make a positive difference in the lives of others?

I have always had a love for helping and giving back to the youth community through my passions. I grew up immersed in the world of theater, and as a result, I was delighted to become the assistant director for my elementary school’s musicals as a middle schooler. When the pandemic occurred, I again wanted to help, this time by teaching elementary schoolers another one of my interests, math, to help bridge the gap between elementary and middle schoolers.

However, as I began to further explore my interests, it was clear that there was one passion that stood out beyond any other – economics and finances. After joining my school’s economics club, I was quickly enthralled by novel economic concepts, and how much they related to our everyday lives. As I became more and more engaged with my club and the youth in general, I noticed that there was a glaring issue concerning our understanding of money – kids my age either have no concept of money, or do not properly understand or appreciate its value. Thus, I wished to create a program that would teach students the importance of financial literacy and its relevance to their daily lives, which is now my program Money Matters.

How has the Young Scholars program helped you to reach your goals and achieve your accomplishments?

Although I had a burning passion and an idea that I wished to move forward, I had no clue where to even begin. I am confident that Money Matters would not exist without the Young Scholars Ambassador program, as it provided me with much-needed guidance, support, and resources that allowed me to create a successful program. The monthly seminars taught me useful information that I constantly used when working on my project, from tips on building a website to how to ask for a grant, something I had never even considered! The monthly check-ins with my advisor, Nuntiya, allowed me to brainstorm innovative ideas, get over obstacles, and simply keep me in check and focused on working towards a goal.

The most unexpected support, however, was from my peers in the program themselves. Through reading my fellow ambassadors’ posts and sharing ideas with them through the monthly Think Tanks, I was able to be inspired, receive feedback, and get to know other people who have strong passions just like me. This program truly fosters such a strong community, and I am happy to be a part of it.

What are some of your short-term and long-term plans?

Currently, I am in my second phase of teaching students through Money Matters’ 3-class program about financial literacy. I am actively seeking to expand my program, so my next steps are to continue building my brand through a better-furnished website and social media. Additionally, I would like to share my program to students all across the country and possibly even the world, by reaching out to national programs such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA for them to possibly teach Money Matters to their students. My final goal is one that will stay with me forever – to make an impact on as many kids’ lives as possible, by providing them with the skills that will help them prosper throughout their lives.

Young Scholar Ambassador Lauren Shen

Lauren Shen

Project: Students Connect

What are some past and present projects you’ve worked on to help make a positive difference in the lives of others?

Whether I am volunteering at the local food pantry or inspiring younger students to have a passion for STEM through competitions and activities, I have found that the connections formed with others through these experiences is irreplaceable. I look fondly back on such memories, and in starting my Ambassadors project, Students Connect, I noticed that this was precisely what was missing as a result of the pandemic: connection to our community.

What started as a small group of students meeting each day for study hall sessions blossomed into a program and school club with students dedicated to helping those around them by forming sincere relationships. Students Connect has held deep discussions, written letters to students nervous about middle school, created cards for the local Children’s Hospital, and planned visits to elementary schools. Through each of these experiences, I have again found the value in forming connections within our communities.

What are some of your short-term and long-term plans?

Currently, I am organizing Students Connect visits to local elementary schools. We have written letters to students in the third and fifth grades, individually addressing each student’s interests, and many in the fifth grade mentioned being nervous to move on to middle school. We hope to not only address their concerns and share our experiences but also instill a sense of excitement. In fostering positive relationships with role models, my goal is that these young students will be inspired by their experience working with Students Connect members and have a constructive outlook on school and the community.

In the long term, I hope to establish these visits as annual. I am also working on the Students Connect website in hopes of sharing my experiences and blogging more about the nuances of student life. As I will be a junior this fall, I am also planning ahead for how the project will continue after I graduate, and am working to establish several events as annual so that the mission of connection within the community will continue.

How has the Young Scholars program helped you to reach your goals and achieve your accomplishments?

I am forever grateful to Ms. Nuntiya Smith, the Davidson Ambassadors Program, and the Young Scholars program for encouraging me to dream big and for inspiring me to be creative. For Students Connect, Ms. Smith’s support has been unparalleled and she has always helped me in planning new ideas and trying new directions. In particular, she encouraged me as I broadened my scope of the project as the pandemic began to lessen, since Students Connect had started as a response to the social isolation caused by the pandemic. I am also amazed by the students I have met through the Ambassadors program. Their passion and dedication to their projects and communities have inspired me and shaped the way that I view my community as well.

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