At the start of fall semester about four years ago, Dr. Corey Seemiller was introducing her syllabus to a freshman class at Wright State University. This fresh crop of first-year college students represented the oldest members of Gen Z. Dr. Seemiller told the class they would be required to volunteer for community service, and she was surprised at students’ lack of enthusiasm. Millennials had usually been eager to volunteer. On student asked:
“Can I count the hours I spend running my non-profit towards the 10 hours required for the course?”
It was then that Dr. Seemiller knew this generation is already changing the world. Learn more about her research by watching her wildly-popular TEDxDayton presentation Generation Z: Making a Difference Their Way.
Wait, Aren’t Gen Z Kids?
Born between 1996-2010, the oldest Gen Z are now 21. They aren’t just teens and children anymore. Some of them are graduating college. And they have ambition. Research by Marketo reveals:
“Growing up in a time of uncertainty (the post-9/11 world, economic recession) and changing norms (increased racial diversity, shifting gender roles), Gen Z is mature, self-directed and resourceful.”
In a Gallup Student Poll, 40% of middle and high school students plan to start their own business, with 24% already learning how to start and manage one. And, as Dr. Seemiller asserts, Gen Z is choosing this path to make a difference:
“It’s more than being their own bosses, but to leverage their talents to create social change. Most want a small business that focuses on an issue they care about. Making a difference is more important than making money. Their way of contributing is different. They don’t come out to volunteer but prefer to attack the root cause of the problem, making volunteerism unnecessary.”
Gen Z is driven to accomplish what matters to them, and that doesn’t just mean affluence and a high standard of living. Compared to Millennials, Gen Z places a high value on economic and environmental consciousness.
Members of Gen Z don’t think they are too young to change the world. A 2017 Giving Report found that 26% of 16-19 year olds volunteer on a regular basis. Gen Z has already given us the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever, Afghan teen Malala Yousafzai. So the question isn’t, “Will Gen Z change the world?” The question is, “Are you ready for this powerhouse generation?”