Last month, I attended the Shot@Life Champions Summit, a gathering of people who want to dedicate their voices and time to help protect children around the world from vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, pneumonia, polio, and rotavirus. Those diseases claim the lives of 1.5 million kids each year, and Shot@Life is a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that aims to change that by increasing access to vaccines.
I had read that Champions represent all walks of life, I admit that I was a little surprised to see a tween in the room. Tacy is a middle schooler from Colorado and she was attending the Summit with her mom, who has been a Champion for a few years. She impressed all the adults in the room, and served as a good example of how tweens can make a difference in causes they care about.
She shared what motivated her to get involved and what she's learned.
Between Us Parents: What motivated you to first get involved in Shot@Life?
Tacy: What first motivated me to get involved in Shot@Life was when my mom went to Uganda in 2012. After she came back, she talked to my 5th grade class all about her experience there. This was the first time that I really learned about the cause, and I thought it was very interesting. She told us all about what the campaign is focused on and what they are doing to help, and the whole thing just stuck with me. Both my mom and I did little things with Shot@Life for a while, until I was invited to the Summit, where I really learned to get involved and advocate for this cause.
BUP: Why is access to vaccines in other countries important to you?
Tacy: Access to vaccines for kids in other countries is important to me because I think that all kids should have the opportunities I am lucky enough to have. Kids in developing countries are still struggling with diseases the United States rarely sees. All kids should have to opportunity to be healthy and happy no matter where they are.
BUP: What did you learn at the Champions Summit in DC last month? Did anything surprise you?
Tacy: From the Champions Summit, I learned all about Shot@Life's purpose, what they are doing to help, and how they have already helped. After we were all informed on what the cause was about, we learned how to bring Shot@Life into our own communities and states. What surprised me the most was learning some of the talking points and small facts. For example, every 20 seconds, a child dies from a disease that could've been prevented using vaccines.
BUP: What is your favorite thing that you've done for Shot@Life so far?
Tacy: My favorite thing has definitely been meeting with my members of Congress and my representatives. We did that in DC, but my mom and I also did that at home just a week ago. As a kid, I get scared to go and talk to them, but it is so exciting at the same time. When I did it in DC, I surprised myself by actually talking. The best part about it is that you really feel like you are doing something and taking action. This is by far my favorite part of advocating for Shot@Life.
BUP: Do you think kids can make a difference in the world?
Tacy: I think kids can definitely change the world.
Kids see things differently than adults, and that is what makes them so special. They don't have any influences that tell them how to think or what to be. They just do what they think is right, and I think that is so important.
BUP: What would you tell kids about the importance of getting involved with something you care about?
Tacy: My advice is not to be scared of getting involved. If you are passionate about something, don't be shy, advocate for your cause. People want to hear what you have to say. I was super shy about talking to people about Shot@Life, whether they be my representative or my teacher at school, but it is really important to realize that people are going to be nice and supportive.
Just be confident and stand up for what you believe in, and people will support you.
If you're interested in becoming a Shot@Life Champion like Tacy and her mom, you can find information on doing so here.
To be honest, it never occurred to me to get my middle schooler involved, but Tacy and her mom had me rethink that. I love what Tacy learned not only about the cause but about using her own voice and the power she has, both to surprise herself and to make a difference.
Whatever the cause that interests your kid, encourage them to speak up about it. Writing or calling your representatives in Congress, and other elected officials is pretty easy. You can find contact information here.
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