The youth empowerment events began in 2007 as a way to highlight the achievements of young people who were making a difference, and to help inspire a generation of youth to become more globally aware and civically engaged.
“These events were a way to honor and inspire young movement builders. There has always been recognition for young people who excel in academics or athletics, but there was nothing to celebrate the achievements of youth giving back to their communities. In just over a decade, the events led to students performing over 40 million volunteer hours for causes they cared about,” Marc says.
Featuring high-energy, motivational performances and speeches from major celebrities (e.g. Prince Harry, Jennifer Aniston, Will Ferrell, Magic Johnson, and Selena Gomez) the annual events highlighted students’ community and global service achievements throughout the year and helped to inspire the thousands of audience members to keep working on social causes of their own choosing.
“There’s always been recognition for young people who excel in academics or athletics, but there was nothing to celebrate the achievements of youth giving back to their communities”.
Beyond the entertainment stars of the day, the events also featured powerful voices, from youth activists like Malala Yousafzai to inspirational leaders like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Elie Wiesel, and Dr. Jane Goodall.
Tickets to the events could not be purchased; instead, they had to be earned. Students secured their seats by taking one local action (e.g. collecting food for homeless shelters) and one global action (e.g. doing a fundraiser to support educational programs in the developing world) throughout the school year.
The events were designed to be “cause-inclusive”, meaning educators and students could work to identify the social cause that resonated most with them and work to make an impact on that specific issue.
In 2015, ABC began airing the events across North America in prime time, attracting millions of viewers on TV and online. Since the first event in Toronto in 2007, there were over 130 youth empowerment events in the United States, Canada, and the UK, hosting and honoring approximately 1.5 million young people.