Written by Allie S.
A junior at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia and past FOCUS camp participant, Nadia Malik has been involved in activism and entrepreneurship from a young age, which has led her to start Teens United, a nonprofit organization that has become a beacon of hope for many. Teens United arose during the COVID-19 pandemic as a volunteer outlet for teens to deliver groceries to at-risk populations, including senior citizens, essential workers, and those who are immunocompromised. Since its inception, Teens United has expanded its reach, and now teens from across the nation have banded together to advocate for climate change, fight for social justice, and end the stigma of mental illness through Teens United. The organization consists of not just volunteers, but a CORE team that helps to keep the organization running, including Malik, who serves as the CEO.
Malik states that the mission of Teens United is to empower teens and to aid communities. Before beginning Teens United, she believed that there was a lack of spaces where teens could come together to share their ideas, which can make change difficult. Her hope for the organization is that it can serve to fill that gap and become a “central hub” for teens where they can raise their voices and rally for causes that they are passionate about. When asked about what it has been like to watch her organization grow into what it has become, she described it as both nerve-wracking and inspiring because while the plan for what is next is not always clear, the stories and experiences she has had through Teens United have helped her grow as a person. She says that her team is very valuable, and each person involved with Teens United brings a whole new experience into the organization. Malik’s vision for the future is that Teens United will become a global organization with more physical chapters so that even more voices can be heard and more discussion on different topics can occur.
For those who are interested in getting involved with Teens United, Malik says that while the main volunteer base consists of teens and college students, there are volunteer and activism opportunities for people of all ages. There are many types of volunteer opportunities, from delivering groceries to virtual volunteering. She adds that there are no limitations and that Teens United has a support network of volunteers who are willing to teach others different skills so that they can best help the organization. “Don’t be afraid to make a difference, and don’t be afraid to speak up,” she says. “There is always an opening.”
And for those who are interested in connecting with Teens United for a new cause or starting their own nonprofit, she advises to recognize the commitment of starting such an endeavor, but to also embrace it. There are so many things teens can do.
During the spring of 2018, Jasmine Agyepong visited Ghana and saw how people were suffering, inspiring her to take action. Agyepong was born in Ghana and moved to the United States when she was five years old. She became involved with GIRL, Inc. in middle school, attending annual career conference meetings, FOCUS camps, and other events. In ninth grade, she discovered her passion for biology and hopes to become a reconstructive surgeon in the future. Her passion for studying STEM and for helping her home country has led her to create the nonprofit Mission STEM, a nonprofit that strives to aid in providing STEM educational resources to those who need them, beginning with children and teenagers in Ghana. By doing so, Agyepong hopes to “help Ghana prosper to reach its full potential” in a manner that will make a true impact.
Agyepong first began to develop the idea that would become Mission STEM in November 2019, and together with a friend, Mission STEM eventually became a reality. While COVID-19 impacted the launch of Mission STEM, the nonprofit recently had its first event: a book drive that took place on January 5th and 6th 2021 at Agyepong’s school, Patriot High School. A few of the school’s honors societies offered points and hours for the donations, which reached a total of 439 books that Agyepong sanitized and sent to Ghana. But this is only the beginning for Mission STEM.
Going forward, Agyepong hopes to make the book drive an annual event and to develop more of a focus on STEM as the organization begins to grow. Some other future plans for Mission STEM include opportunities for donations, more fundraising, and the creation of charters and outreach at other schools. She also hopes to eventually be able to donate computers and train teachers to become specialized in STEM as well as expand the organization to other countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya.
When asked about any advice she would give to anyone who is interested in becoming involved with nonprofits, Agyepong says to not do it merely for the college applications, and “don’t do it for performance.” She adds that it is important to do research before becoming involved in nonprofit work because without correct information, one can do more harm than good. For those interested in STEM, she encourages them to do what they like and says that “you can get involved in something in [many] ways as long as you have a passion for it.”