Since the February 14th school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we have been applauding the young people who stepped up to the plate and said ENOUGH! Those young people have protested both online and in person, demanding that stricter gun laws be put into place to keep our schools, our society safer. We are all proud of these young people, and many of us have said that if there is hope for this nation to get back on track, that hope lies with this generation that is just now coming of age. In keeping with those thoughts, I decided to make this generation the focus of today’s Good People post, for many of them are doing some truly wonderful things.
Meet Jessica Russo. Jessica, age 20, lives in Staten Island, New York, and is a junior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts pursuing a degree in political science with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies, as well as Latino and Latin American Studies. During her freshman year, one of Jessica’s best friends was sexually assaulted. Seeing what her friend went through fueled a desire in Jessica to both spread awareness and also provide resources to victims of sexual assault.
Among Jessica’s goals are to create a dialogue among peers, professors, and faculty on college campuses in order to increase the knowledge these individuals have about sexual assault.
Jessica knew that her goals were far too big to be accomplished alone. In response, she created an Executive Board made up of students at her school who share the same passion for ending sexual assault as she does. She also has created volunteer opportunities for those who want to be involved in her campaign, Silence to Sound, such as regional researcher, a position where students will be able to research resources for the campaign’s database. Interacting with student groups on campus in order to host events is part of the work that continues to further her mission.
She has created, using her own money, a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. Her website is equipped with school specific resources for sexual assault survivors at over 110 schools in four states. This includes Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois and Wisconsin. The group’s mission statement is:
“We at Silence to Sound seek to create a safe and resourceful space for a discussion of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. We aim to ensure gender equity and safety through dialogue and action. We advocate for survivors with resources for reporting and seeking emotional support. Furthermore, our end goal is the complete prevention of sexual assault through a changed societal attitude toward consent and safety for all.”
She has conducted webinars along with three other women from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ghana where they speak about gender-related issues. This is a young woman who saw a problem, saw a need, and is doing something to solve the problem and fill the need. Another shining example of our next generation.
Levi Fallavollita was 11-years-old and living in Tucson the first time he was threatened with a gun. It was indeed a frightening experience, but rather than let it change him, he decided to let it help him change the world. Levi realized that he was not alone, that other kids were going through similar experiences of being bullied, and he wanted to reach out to them.
Levi began by writing a book, The Good The Bad and The Bullies. That spawned book signings in his local community and “Nights of Sharing” workshops, where kids and adults came to talk about their experiences. That inspired Fallavollita to publish another book, Be Courageous, featuring a collection of those shared stories — including a 73-year-old woman who still remembered the pain of being bullied as a youngster.
Word got around. Soon, Fallavollita was writing monthly columns for the local newspaper and appearing on television news. He collaborated with the Fund for Civility, which was founded by the family of Arizona Congressman Ron Barber after he and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords were shot in January 2011 outside a grocery store in Tucson. That earned him an invite to Washington, D.C., where he talked to members on the House floor about his “Be Courageous” project. He was also recognized for his efforts with a Daily Point of Light award that was established by former President George H.W. Bush.
Be sure to check out Levi’s Facebook page.
Before I introduce the third good young person, I want you to check to be sure you are sitting down, for the sheer energy of Miss Talar Terzian is going to knock your socks off! Talar, 16 years of age, lives in Gainesville, Florida and attends Oak Hall school. Her grandfather was a Vietnam War veteran, and through the years Talar met many of his combat comrades and heard their stories. As she grew older, she began to notice that female veterans did not receive near the attention the males did, and the female vets’ stories went largely unheard, especially in the history books.
Talar started the Female Veterans Journaling Project. The Female Veterans Journaling Project aims to provide every woman veteran nationwide with a journal to write in. While the long-term goal of the project is to pair every woman veteran with a journal, Talar’s currently working on her short-term goal of providing every female veteran in Florida with a journal. Talar decided to approach the representation of women veterans through the journal project because she believes it has the potential to touch the lives of many women veterans, by helping them see that their voices and stories are valued. In addition to the journals, Talar is also developing an app to connect women veterans with one another so that they can share their experiences with one another on social media.
And while the Journaling Project is what initially brought this young woman onto my radar, the thing that qualified her for today’s ‘Good People’, in researching Talar, I found something else!
As Alejandro López, writing for the Gainesville Sun stated, “Talar Terzian boasts a loaded résumé that would make a college graduate blush. She’s traveled the world on the strength of her scientific acumen. She’s helped author a handful of research articles. She’s founded a volunteer organization to help female veterans, and sits as first-chair clarinetist with the Oak Hall Pit Orchestra.”
Recently named to the International Science Olympiad, Talar’s love for science stretches back to sixth grade. Motivated by her science teacher, she entered the science fair, creating a natural, organic laundry detergent that would eventually win her the regional title.
Last year, Talar was recognized for the portable washing machine she built from landfill-bound material and fitted with a biosand filter of her own design. Used in conjunction with steel-meshed screens, the resulting biofilm removes phosphates from the water before it is reused for irrigation. Move over, Euell Gibbons!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted just from reading about all this girl has done in her short 16 years!!!
These three are but a small sample of the young people, our future scientists, politicos, doctors, lawyers and more, who are already making their mark on the world. I think they give us good reason to hope for an even brighter future, don’t you?
Note to Readers: You may remember my Good People post on February 7th featuring Dr. Daniel Ivankovich? Two weeks ago, much to my amazement, I received a message via Facebook Messenger from none other than Dr. Ivankovich himself! This is the second time since I started the Good People feature that the subject of my post has contacted me to thank me. It is such a heartwarming experience … beyond words! I wanted to share our short conversation with you: