Henry Marshall, a recent high school graduate of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, MA., started a movement called Donate:60, an idea to have students share 60 seconds of their high school commencement addresses. Marshall started the initiative to give a voice to top graduates to speak on real issues regarding our generation’s future.
It all started about 19 months ago, Marshall said in an interview with College Media Network. He and his father, who works in marketing, started an organization called Potential Energy. They wanted to see how they could use the power of branding and messaging to change social perceptions on climate change.
Donate:60 is not only partnered with Potential Energy, but also with the Alliance for Climate Education, the Brady Campaign, and the Women’s March Youth Empower movement. Donate:60 was then able to connect with a large network of students that enabled them to reach out to a much larger audience.
Over the past few months — and in light of the tragic events that took place in Parkland, Fla. — more goals were added to the plan, with gun reform being one of the most important.
“What became very clear to me and to all of us at Potential Energy was that the voice of the youth is what’s going to make or break the issue of climate change, and many issues over the course of my lifetime,” Marshall said.
He points out that what really mattered was the opinion of his generation, and not the ones before him. The idea of Donate:60 took off from there, which highlights how the youth would respond to social problems of this age.
Marshall’s goal was to create a catalytic moment for the youth empowerment movement.
“Much in the same way the Golden Globes were a catalytic moment for the Time’s Up movement,” Marshall stated. “And what we came up with was Donate:60, which was just using commencement addresses nationwide to give a voice to valedictorians, class presidents, and speakers to make a statement about our generation’s future.”
“That’s where we’ve been for the past five months working on that concept,” he added.
Marshall, the lead student organizer of Donate:60, said it is important to keep in mind that it was a group effort. Together, a student leadership team was made by students, and for students.
“There are about eight of the core group, and more that come and go,” Marshall explained. “We’ve had a series of weekly meetings where we’ve drafted a pledge… So it wasn’t just my voice or one voice coming through, but it represented a voice of our generation.”
Students who participate in the Donate:60 pledge bring together their fellow peers and classmates in hopes of bringing their voices to the ballot box.
“Part of the movement is a big push to get Generation Z registered to vote,” Marshall said. “Over the next 4 years, 17 million of us are going to be eligible and we want as many of those 17 million participating in voting and talking about these issues.”
Equality in class, race, gender, and sexual orientation, freedom from gun violence, and action on climate change are the goals that Marshall and his team are working on in the organization.
He hopes to see significant numbers by the end of June. Below is the list of student speakers who agreed to be covered, which includes their high schools and speech dates, respectively.
- Jeremy Guiman – South San Fran High School – June 1
- German Shabanets – The Buckley School, Sherman Oaks, CA – June 1
- Areya Kugler – Coconino High School, Flagstaff, AZ – June 1
- Saderloune Fevry – Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex, Providence, RI – June 6
- London Vallery – Byron P. Steele High, Cibolo, TX – June 7
- Kimberly Sanchez Briones – Desert Hot Springs High, Desert Hot Springs, CA- June 7
- Munira Almire – Rochester Stem Academy, Rochester, MN – Thursday, June 7
- Abdu Mohamdy – Carver High School of Engineering, Philadelphia, PA, June 8
- Knowel Whillhight and Valentina Xu (speaking together) – Maumee Valley Country Day School, Toledo, OH – June 8.
- Jason McCay-Moran – Tahoe Expedition Academy – Tahoe, CA – June 9
- Lauren Saue-Fletcher – Medical Lake High School – Medical Lake, WA – June 9
“What’s been amazing for me to see as a student is how much students want to do this and how much they want to make this statement,” Marshall shared with CMN. “So, I think the more people we can get sharing that with their classmates and their country is very meaningful.”
Marshall will attend Harvard University this fall and is considering studying environmental science, earth and planetary science, or economics and government. From either a scientific or policy side, he wants to have an impact on the issues that most benefit the nation and the world.
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