On the homepage of Williamsville East High School’s website there is a quote: “A flame begins with a single spark.” Being that the school’s team name is the Flames, the quote is fitting. Maybe not because our mascot represents the gaseous part of a fire, but because of our fiery desire to make a difference. One student in particular, sophomore Allie Walker, has taken that quote to heart in her campaign titled “I Want To Be.”
Her goal is to give a voice, through photography and social media, to the girls abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria simply because they wanted an education.
“I was on CNN’s website ... and I saw a small article about them, and I was appalled by how small it was,” Allie said. Immediately she saw the need for awareness and outreach, and she didn’t wait long to act. According to Allie, the tragedy of the abducted girls is part of a 12-year-old crisis in Nigeria. Boko Haram is estimated to be responsible for the deaths of more than 1,500 people during its rampage of terror.
Taking part is “I Want To Be” is simple: Take a picture holding a sign displaying what you want to be and post it to Instagram and Twitter.
It sounds pretty minuscule, but this type of social media advocacy is a new and aggressive way of relaying a message, and one Allie and her supporters hope will work. After all, awareness is always the first step on the path to action.
“If our world becomes filled with good people that don’t try and help because they don’t know how, nothing will change,” Allie said.
And in our world of likes and retweets, awareness isn’t that hard to come by. On Twitter alone, “I Want To Be” has reached out to many organizations, including the Peace Corps, and even celebrities, such as Beyoncè, Ellen Degeneres and Lady Gaga.
The group has a tremendous support base at Williamsville East, with almost the entire student body making signs and taking pictures.
Above all, “I Want To Be” is bringing the school closer together. When Allie planned a photo shoot last month, the turnout was fantastic. It was a gathering of teens that suddenly had a drive – a determination to end something atrocious, and a determination to do it as a school, as a community.
“Our acts,” she said, “will build up and generate until we can generate reform.”
It’s kind of like a flame. The more kindling you add, the brighter it gets, and the more people see it.
Sam J. Schatmeyer is a freshman at Williamsville East High School.