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Service

Harnessing the Power of Youth to Help Homeless Students

Matine Khalighi | Nov 20, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Matine Khalighi | Nov 20, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of being involved in service. I understood that serving others was at the core of the Baha’i teachings — and that always motivated me to think about ways to impact my community. 

During high school, I spent a significant amount of time volunteering to support people experiencing homelessness. Through these efforts, I learned about an even greater need: students experiencing homelessness. According to the most recent data from the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE), in the United States, roughly 1.3 million school-age children attending public school experience homelessness. These students juggle between choosing where to sleep and finishing their homework every night. For some students, their families have lived in poverty for generations, while others recently lost their jobs and found themselves living in motels, shelters, cars, or on the street.  

Helping The Homeless Colorado distributing supplies to the local community

My heart sank when I learned of the possibility that a teenager, like myself, could experience this. As a budding, activist-oriented teen, I knew that I had to do something about it. If only there were a way to fix that! 

Related: How My Conversation with a Homeless Woman Changed My Life

That’s when I turned to the Baha’i writings for guidance and found this quote about something deeply valued in the Baha’i Faith: education. Baha’u’llah, the founder and prophet of the Baha’i Faith, wrote that Knowledge is a veritable treasure for man, and a source of glory, of bounty, of joy, of exaltation, of cheer and gladness unto him.”

Research has proven that giving students the chance and opportunity to advance their education is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty. The Baha’i writings emphasize that “Every child is potentially the light of the world—and at the same time its darkness; wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary importance.”

This realization led to me co-founding a nonprofit named EEqual. EEqual is a 501(c)3 youth-led organization dedicated to leveling the playing field for students experiencing poverty. We invest in the education of students in extreme poverty or experiencing homelessness through scholarships and mentorships. 

At its core, EEqual uses the power of youth to mobilize our vision into action. Being a youth-led nonprofit means that teenagers who are passionate advocates for change do all the programming, fundraising, and administrative work. . EEqual provides scholarships to send students experiencing homelessness to college and creates school clubs across the nation where student leaders can spearhead a more equitable education environment in their local communities. 

I believe that EEqual, and the youth powering it, are a perfect example of “A generation of youth is being galvanized into action by a compelling vision of how they can contribute to building a new world.” Through service, I hope that each of us starts to think more deeply about education’s importance for future generations. Education is foundational, and we must do everything in our power to guarantee that every student, no matter their economic background, has an equal opportunity to pursue it safely and comfortably. 

Embarking on this path of service was much more challenging than I had anticipated. As a youth-run organization, our age often causes adults to become skeptical and overlook our desire to make an impact. Despite these challenges, my team and I continue to push forward by staying focused on our mission and reaching out to those willing to help. 

If you are young, please remember that your ability to make a difference is not dependent on your age. Your voice and actions can and already are transforming the world. When it comes to transforming society’s very framework, we must start to integrate youth voices more heavily. Young people today are more excited and eager to reimagine the world as we know it. So, please, let us!

If you are a young person, or if you know of any youth who may be interested in being a part of EEqual, please reach out!

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