With over 83 million millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) in the United States, the social sector is keeping a pulse on how this generation chooses to give back and get involved, especially as the majority are entering their peak earning years. By 2020, millennials are projected to make up 50 percent of our nation’s workforce.
As they continue through their professional careers, this generation’s philanthropic inclinations prove strong. Eighty-four percent of Millennial employees made a charitable gift in 2014. According to one survey, 65 percent of millennial respondents say one of their top three goals in finding employment is to make an impact on society.
It comes as no surprise, then, that many socially-conscious young people are becoming active leaders in the social sector. To give you a glimpse into how millennials in the workforce are advancing the sector today, here are several organizations run by young leaders that are making strides in their cause.
1. Jordyn Lexton
Founder and Executive Director of Drive Change
- Founded: 2014
- Graduated from: Wesleyan University (BA, English Language and Literature/Letters); Pace University (MA, Secondary Education and Teaching)
- Reach her: @wordsbyjordyn
As a public high school teacher for three years on Rikers Island, a jail complex in New York City, Jordyn Lexton saw firsthand how formerly incarcerated youth were hit with closed doors and denied employment opportunities, contributing to high rates of young people reentering the system after their release. While dismayed by these observations, Lexton also noticed how one culinary arts class restored students’ spirits and sense of self-worth. This was one of the critical moments that helped connect the dots and sparked an innovative solution to this problem.
A lot of young people were really, really demonstrating creativity, and [the food industry] is an industry that I know is very receptive to hiring young people after release. I started thinking a lot about how food can be that unifier, that connecter, that really brings a community together.”
In the following years, Lexton founded Drive Change, a food truck social enterprise that empowers young people (ages 17 to 25) to rebuild their lives after adult jail and prison. They participate in a fellowship that offers both paid employment experience and transferrable skill development opportunities that enable them to attain preferential career options.
The organization’s award-winning food truck, Snowday, is making its mark on both young people’s lives and the greater metropolitan area. It won the 2015 Vendy Cup for best food truck in New York City.
2. Katie Meyler
Founder and CEO of More Than Me
- Founded: 2009
- Graduated from: North Central University (BA, International Studies and Theology)
- Reach her: @katiemeyler
While living in Liberia to help orphaned children after a recent civil war, Katie Meyler befriended kids whose top dream was to go to school. To help them receive an education, she turned to her networks to fundraise and help cover these children’s school expenses.
In 2009, she founded More Than Me, an organization that transforms the lives of young Liberian girls by getting them off the streets—where they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation—and into school. The organization opened the More Than Me Academy in 2013, a tuition-free school for girls that offer an education, provide them with holistic services, and empower them to become catalysts for change. During the Ebola crisis, More Than Me also provided ambulance and healthcare support and took in orphaned children, for which they were recognized as the TIME Person of the Year.
There’s a bigger message that I hope to really share. It’s really to challenge people, what are we really living for? Who are we on a day-to-day basis? Living for something bigger than ourselves.”
3. Shane Feldman
Founder and CEO of Count Me In
- Founded: 2008
- Reach him: @shanefeldman
The transition into high school can be challenging for many young people. That was the case for the then-13-year-old freshman, Shane Feldman. But this difficult year soon became the catalyst for Count Me In, an entirely youth-run organization that inspires teens to volunteer in their communities and combats mental health issues. The Count Me In Broadcast, the organization’s landmark, livestreamed event, brings students together with speakers and performers to spark community-driven purpose and empower teens to give back.
Through their major broadcasts, school tours, and mentorship programs, Count Me In has impacted over 10 million people around the world. Believing that change tomorrow starts with young people taking action today, the organization aims to motivate today’s generation to become active participants in the future of our society.
I know people are always saying wait ‘til you’re older, wait ‘til you graduate, wait til’ you’re taller, or smarter to do something important. You don’t have to wait for anything.”
4. Jennifer Elizabeth Crone
Founder and CEO of Brunch Club
- Founded: 2014
- Graduated from: California Sate University-Fullerton (BFA, Painting, Drawing); Santa Reparata International School of Art (Studio Art, Art History, Literature)
- Reach her: firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2014, while buying a bagel for herself on her birthday, Jennifer Elizabeth Crone bought five more to hand out to the homeless. A few weeks later, she created an event on Facebook called Brunch Club-Sunday of Service and invited her friends to make lunches for the local homeless community in San Diego, and then go to brunch afterward. Six people joined her that Sunday morning. By the third month, 60 people participated to help serve those in need.
Brunch Club now has hundreds of volunteers who’ve delivered thousands of meals, hygiene and cold weather kits, blankets, and encouraging notes during monthly events. In addition to providing essentials, the organization is also working to create jobs, while its Holistic Health and Wellness Programs serve those who suffer from PTSD and other mental illnesses. To date, Brunch Club has impacted 3,000 people.
”I want to do as much as I can for San Diego, which has the third largest homeless population in the country and the first largest population of homeless veterans. But at the end of the day, I want to feed people who are hungry and I want to look them in the eyes and tell them they are worthy when they have forgotten it. And that’s what Brunch Club does.”
5. Matthew Zachary
Founder and CEO of Stupid Cancer
- Founded: 2004
- Graduated from: Binghamton University (BA, Sociology, Computer Science and Music)
- Reach him: @matthewzachary
In 1995, the then-21-year-old Matthew Zachary, a concert pianist, composer, and college senior, was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer. He noticed that though the number of resources for young adults affected by cancer had increased over time, many were still unaware of the tools, programs, and services available to them and their families. That’s why in 2007, Zachary started Stupid Cancer, now the largest organization that takes an all-inclusive approach to addressing young adult cancer.
Through advocacy, support, research, outreach, awareness, social media, and mobile health platforms, the organization connects thousands of people to the resources and community they need to fight cancer. Their innovative, award-winning programs and services—including Instapeer, an anonymous messaging app for young adults affected by cancer, and The Stupid Cancer Show, their podcast that elevates the conversation around young adult cancer—are calling attention to and bringing support around this underserved population. In an interview with CancerForward, Zachary says,
Cancer isn’t going away anytime soon and there’s much work to be done. Newly diagnosed young adults continue to remain unaware of the age-appropriate support resources they are entitled to so they can get busy living. By broadening our radio presence, expanding our annual conference, building new volunteer communities and collaborating with more cancer centers and nonprofit organizations, we will continue to innovate and excel in our industry as the voice of the young adult cancer movement.”
– Matthew Zachary
These are just a handful of millennials in the workforce who are rallying to effect meaningful change. What are some of your favorite organizations that are run by young, innovative leaders? Let us know in the comments below!