Guest Op-Ed: Teaching kids to empower themselves

November 20, 2013 Editorial Staff
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Today, November 20, marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Children’s Day, observed annually with activities that encourage children’s well-being throughout the world.

Children are our future. The fate of the world that we leave for them, however, rests solely in our hands.

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On a local level, we have taken steps toward real and lasting peace in our community.

Three years ago, I helped bring together the Young Peace Builders, an intercultural program for Turkish-Muslim and Jewish-American teens run by the Kings Bay Y and Turkish Cultural Center.

I have always believed that through education we can get to understand each other, and we have seen the tangible results of this labor of love. The Young Peace Builders initiative has successfully united multi-faith and multi-ethnic members of the community to forge lasting bonds of friendship.

While the camaraderie is a bonus for the Young Peace Builders, it is the ultimate goal of contributing to peace and harmony by building long-lasting relationships that resonates on a global scale.

These relationships have also extended to the parents of the Young Peace Builders, proving that bridge-building can be multi-generational as well as multi-cultural.

Working together on a grassroots level within our communities…that’s how young people will change the world.

There are a number of ways for local youth to help make a difference. It is as simple as walking up to a local library, Y or non-profit organization, and asking: “How can I volunteer for you?” After Superstorm Sandy, teens from the Kings Bay Y brought emergency supplies to victims stranded in high-rise buildings in Coney Island and helped evacuate seniors in the Rockaways.

Last month, I partnered with volunteers from the nearby Mazel Day School, whose young students — displaced from their classrooms due to Superstorm Sandy — wanted to give back to their community by cleaning up Holocaust Memorial Park in Sheepshead Bay.

For two hours, the park was filled with the inspiring sight of children raking leaves, cleaning the park of litter and planting tulip bulbs.

Children believe the impossible is possible and they view the world with unadulterated wonder. There lies their power as well as our greatest hope for the future. Let us remember not only how much we can teach our young people, but how much we can learn from them.


Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz represents the 45th A.D.

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