Two recent North Allegheny graduates have teamed up with other young adults to create a change guide that aims to provide resources and guidance to other young people looking to make change in their communities.
The end product is an 85-page book titled “From the Ground Up: A Guide to Changemaking.”
Victoria Ren, 17, who is preparing to attend Stanford University this fall, has been working on the guide for almost two years.
“I wanted to create something that was accessible to everyone, to be that first support system,” she said, explaining that the book offers a range of information to help people get started in the world of change. .
Ren co-wrote the book with Samantha Podnar, another recent North Allegheny graduate, and Louisa Edwards, a student at the University of Virginia. Abby Liang, who studies at the University of Michigan, was the project’s graphic designer.
Podnar brainstormed with Ren before launching the project.
“I thought a comprehensive guide could be extremely helpful for those who didn’t really have access to the resources to get involved in change,” Podnar said. “I believed in the idea and the team we had started to build, and I thought I could put my interest in writing to good use.”
Ren said the idea was sparked by his own change work. She was working on a project that aimed to “redefine what the traditional classroom looked like.” His work included leading events and awareness camps.
Ren said she realized there was a learning curve to getting into such work. She also acknowledged that finding the right mentors or resources to learn more can be a challenge.
“I realized how much I wish I had known when I started — how much I wish I had that mentorship that is often needed when you start change or activism work,” Ren said.
This is the void that his guide hopes to fill.
“The guide is super handy,” Ren said. “It goes from start to finish of a lot of change work.”
It begins with a section that walks people through the process of determining what interests them most and how they might begin to create positive change in that area. It suggests potential steps, from creating a website for a local nonprofit to launching a brand new organization.
“It walks everyone through the different stages you might encounter, like building a team, using social media, failing,” she said.
Each section addresses a specific topic and includes case studies of other young people who have worked on topics such as mental health and food insecurity.
“For me, it was cool to be able to distill everything I’ve learned and hopefully do better into something I can share with other people,” Ren said.
Podnar had been part of a racial justice coalition in the North Allegheny School District for more than two years — and she used her experiences to help determine what other young people should know about change.
“Helping to write and edit the guide has taught me a lot because there is so much great content out there, in the minds of my teammates and in the minds of other young changemakers,” said she declared. “We just really consolidated it and made it accessible.”
The group published the guide in June, which is available at bit.ly/fromthegroundupguide.
“There’s a lot of information in this guide,” Ren said. “It is meant to be used as a dictionary or a thesaurus. Whenever you feel like you’re at a roadblock, then you can watch it.
Ultimately, Ren said, she wants the guide to be a resource that can make activism and change more accessible to young adults. She said she hopes it inspires people to start or continue a job that often feels daunting.
“I hope the ultimate conclusion people will get is that there’s a community behind you, even if you don’t feel like there is one,” she said. “It can be very lonely or heavy, like there’s so much you don’t know yet. But with the guide, people can see that there are so many people supporting you.