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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ohio's Young Activist Rebekah Bolser -- A Woman With a Voice

"I cannot believe that the only way to stop this epidemic is to punish people who weren't given a fair shot to begin with. I can't pretend I know how t
o stop heroin, among other drug activity, from breaking down
communities across Ohio, because I don't.

"But I think the first step is realizing that every death we see on the news
and in our local papers is not just another overdose-they are people. With families. And lives. And that there are typically a multitude of issues surrounding these deaths.

"I don't know the solution, but I think the first step is consciously choosing to reach a level of understanding we've been avoiding for too long. Our job,
as neighbors, peers, and friends, is not to put away "the bad guys."
Because people... are too often not "bad guys," but are not given
the chance to be seen as anything else.

"Our job is to make sure every student, no matter their background, is given the opportunity to succeed. And that those who have fallen behind are given
the opportunity to get ahead. We cannot keep assuming that every person associated with the things we've come to fear is a bad person,
because developing solutions based off these assumptions
will keep us from moving forward."

--Rebekah Bolser, writer and activist

(Rebekah Bolser. "On Heroin, Ohio, and Storytelling for Change."
Huffington Post. July 07, 2015.)

Let me tell you a little about Rebekah Bolser. Rebekah (Bekah) Bolser is a youth activist from Hamilton, Ohio. She is an advocate for girls, education, and sustainable development as well as a consultant on youth policy and digital organizing. She is a self-proclaimed optimist.

Bolser is a 2013 graduate of Hamilton High School. She has just completed her freshman year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Diplomacy and Global Politics and a second major in Strategic Communications.

Her projects have included OneCommunity, an art exhibit that challenged elementary school students to create artwork that depicts issues within their community including racism, discrimination, and immigration.

Bolser founded Teens Against Teen Suicide at 14 years old, an organization dedicated to raising awareness on issues surrounding teen suicide and depression and began "teen on teen counseling" groups at local high schools where students could seek tutoring, advice, and mentorship from their classmates in an open, inclusive environment.

She also established the Pocahontas Project in 2013, a local based project that sought to teach students about environmental sustainability through art.

Rebekah founded EveryGirl, a scholarship fund and leadership immersion forum dedicated to giving incoming college freshman girls the resources and skills needed to become leaders on their campus. EveryGirl seeks to make college more accessible to young women, as well as give them the tools needed to succeed.

Bolser currently serves as the USA Chapter Chairperson for the International Youth Council, where she works to create national and global programs that encourage young leaders to get involved with issues surrounding the MDGs, Post2015 Agenda, and the role of young people in creating these policies. Her current initiatives also involve comprehensive sex education and reproductive justice.

Rebekah is also director of the Student Voice Project. She oversees student representatives of Ohio and also serves as the chair for the Congressional Youth Council Implementation Committee.

 Rebekah has written for several sources including the Huffington Post, ProgressWomen, and GenYNot.

("Rebekah Bolser." LinkedIn)

I found Rebekah's "Blog" post in the Huff Post about the current drug epidemic in Ohio to be very insightful and brutally honest. After investigating her and discovering her fervent activism, I became very impressed with this young lady and her many varied accomplishments. Here is a link to many of Bolser's articles I'm sure readers will enjoy: You can also follow her at @RebekahBolser.

As I sing her praises, let me give you a few quotes from Rebekah in other articles she has written.

"Easing restrictions and allowing young people over the age of 21 to carry a hidden, loaded weapon with no training, permit, or background check can only lead to higher incarceration rates among this group of people. We are not building a future for Ohio's young people, we are taking it away. If we truly value the lives of Ohio's youth, we must advocate for commonsense gun legislation, work to create safer communities, ensure equitable education for Ohio's students, and expand opportunities for our most marginalized communities."

(On Hillary Clinton) "I, like many of my millennial peers, have been waiting for the day when that glass ceiling shatters. I spent a good portion of my childhood reading about Eleanor Roosevelt and imagining what the world would be like if she had been the one sitting at the resolute desk. I would tell my parents that I wanted to be the first woman president while simultaneously praying it wouldn't take that long. And now it's so close I can feel it. My first time voting in a presidential election and it could very well be for a woman who will pave the way for so many more."

(Praising Obama's State of the Union Address and the resulting "A Seat At the Table" summit. While we recognize that this is a complex issue and it's going to take a lot of work to empower youth across the country to be active and participating in our government system, we believe that by giving young people the opportunity to create change on the local level, they will feel more invested in their community and that will translate to how they participate in the political process on every scale."

"As you learn more, don't be afraid to be wrong or change your opinions. Life is about growing and changing as a person and it's something you'll find happens a lot -- no matter what you decide to do. There is nothing wrong with saying 'I used to feel this way, but after some research and reflection, I have come to a different conclusion.'"

("The Key to Being a Youth Activist." July 10, 2014.)

Dear Bill O'Reilly ... "Because very few people are buying your Beyoncé = teen pregnancy theory, I thought I would do you a favor and put together a list of issues you fail to discuss when you decided to take on the topic of teen pregnancy. You can thank me later..."

1. Comprehensive Sex Education

"Did you know that only 13 states required that sex and HIV education, if provided, should be medically accurate? Teens are going to have sex. How can we help them make this decision and be safe about it? Hint: It's not by providing them with inaccurate information in hopes to get them to stay away from a natural activity that 95 percent of Americans will have before they're married. Let's talk to students about birth control and contraception and encourage open conversation."

2. Slut Shaming in Schools

"There has been talk, mostly by you, that Beyoncé is "harming" America's children with her music videos. I understand that children and teens are impressionable, but I think more damage results from schools telling girls that guys would rather marry virgins, because if you have sex, you're like a chewed up piece of gum -- used up and worthless."

3. Socioeconomics and Teen Pregnancy

"I know you've never been one to truly recognize income inequality, but I think this topic is a lot more important than Beyoncé's music videos. Teen pregnancy can be related to poverty. In fact, state inequality rates correlate to teen pregnancy. Income inequality is a real problem here in the United States, which has the highest rate of teen pregnancy compared to other developed countries."

("Teen Pregnancy and Beyoncé: What Bill O'Reilly Is Missing." Teen Pregnancy and Beyoncé: What Bill O'Reilly Is Missing. May 08, 2014.)

Ms. Bolser, I find your viewpoints both interesting and thoughtful. You are destined to be an invaluable resource for America as you continue to mature and to accept many leadership roles. Your voice is wise beyond your years, and I marvel at how many great accomplishments you have at such a young age. I praise you for your complete commitment to action, which legitimizes your ability to help enact needed change.

Other organizations/projects Rebekah has been involved in/affiliated with include UNICEF, UNA-USA, UNDP, Bundles of Joy, Femellennials, and Math Is Music, among others. I don't know how this young lady has time for her studies at Miami. To say, Bolser is becoming well-versed is quite an understatement.

It would behoove us all to pay attention to the writing of this aspiring female. In a recent Facebook post, Rebekah said: "Finishing off my freshman year with one last exam, big kid internship interviews, a city council meeting, and this killer new AK necklace courtesy of my momma. Thanks to everyone who has supported me (and all of my projects) this year. So pumped to see what the next three years bring."

I am also "pumped" to follow your progress, young lady. I can tell you this, no matter the chosen direction you take in your future, you will bring intellectualism, honesty, and untold initiative to the table. Please, Rebekah Bolser, keep on keeping on.

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