by Sohil Shah
I remember when I decided to launch my first socially conscious organization, with my co-founder Gloria Tso. Both of us had this burgeoning passion to make a dent in the higher education system and provide to those students marginalized by the higher education system the resources and tools they need to successfully apply to and attend college. In fact, we deliberated so many different potential services to offer and platforms to deliver over that I still have on my desktop a sticky note with a dozen new initiatives to introduce to The College Essayist over the next years. Our mission was unified and whole: to provide students, regardless of race, gender and socioeconomic status, the tools, skills and tangible resources needed to apply to college and pursue their academic dreams. Our mission was straightforward, but the work that ensued was laborious and difficult. But looking at it now, it's a journey that I would not change one bit.
As a delegate to the 2016 Winter Assembly at the United Nations, I have learned that to truly understand the new sustainable developmental goals (SDGs) mean to understand the interconnectedness of our worlds. One SDG cannot be mutually exclusive from another; they all require equal attention in order to maximize international development and truly speak to the needs of societies across the globe. The Youth Assembly simply solidified this common theme I observed and made me rethink intercultural dialogue as a tool for peace. Outstanding fellow delegates from all over the world convened together to learn about how they can create transformative action in their communities locally and abroad. Those that were in attendance, including myself, were the champions to bring back to their homes the ideas conversed, the networks created, and actions delegated to truly succeed in achieving the SDGs - because even if one delegate can positively create awareness and impact of one of the 17 SDGs, the ripple effect is enormous and the interconnectedness of the remaining SDGs will follow through by the laws of order.
It wasn't until I was sitting in the Resolution Social Venture Challenge Finals-which seeks to invest in young leaders who strive to create socially responsible change-when I truly realized how dependent our world is on the people surrounding us. My fellow peers were presenting venture ideas that not only created physical infrastructures to house women's sports in countries abroad, but at the same time, they were also tackling SDG #1, ending poverty by creating jobs, SDG #3 ensuring healthy lives through physical activity, SDG #5, including women in society, and the list practically goes on. The ripple effect of one idea has the implication to benefit communities in ways not even thought of. All it takes is an idea. And from there, you run with it. Even if failure looms, as it did many times with my own organization, you are forced to think with innovation, simply pressing your buttons to make sure that you are committed to creating the transformative and social change that this world needs.
Although sometimes the work that I do seems insignificant to me, I realize now that my work does not just impact those in area of equalizing access to higher education. Rather, it also impacts those who want a career in the future and eliminate themselves from a cycle of poverty (SDG #1), to improve the nutrition provided to their families (SDG #2), which is a byproduct of SDG #1, and again, the list practically goes on. Youth are already contributing to the new age of transforming and progressing our world into a sustainable and more socially conscious society, but still so much more can be done. Take advantage of all opportunities that come your way, and those opportunities that force you to think bigger and bolder are those that will create the greatest change. All it takes is one idea, and from there, the resources that are available to you to scale that idea, like the Resolution Project, into a living proof of action are insurmountable. Our increasingly interconnected world will not be sustained if we focus on the next big thing we can do. Rather, we must focus now on how we can do the next big thing and make that into a living reality to inspire others to do the same, ultimately creating a community network of change agents and doers.
Sohil Shah, 18, is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sohil co-founded The College Essayist (TCE) that serves to provide students both via physical and virtual resources the tools, skills, and knowledge needed to successfully apply to and attend college for free.
This post is a part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with Friendship Ambassadors Foundation following the 2016 Youth Assembly at the United Nations held on February 17-18, 2016. The winter session tackled the role of youth in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To see all posts in the series, click here.