The Teen Action Fair at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center gives local youth a way to connect, find causes, and take action all in one place.
"The main focus is to connect youth within the community to organizations so they can get more involved,” said Bitaniya Giday, a 17-year-old Youth Ambassador for the Discovery Center.
She’s among the Youth Ambassadors who help set up, curate and manage the fair. This year’s Teen Action Fair was slated for March, which meant that the in-person sharing couldn’t happen because of the COVID-19 shutdown. But these kids turned that potential let down into a new opportunity to do the same thing – in a different way.
"I don't know about disappointing - I'm kind of into this whole new virtual space and learning to connect in whole new different ways,” said Bitaniya.
So this year, they’re taking the Teen Action Fair online. The kids, community leaders, activists and artists are getting together from home. Bitaniya and fellow Youth Ambassador Noah Collier, 19, co-hosted the first virtual Teen Action Fair on Microsoft Teams. When asked who can go, Noah makes it clear that it’s all-inclusive: "Anybody. It is open to all people, it welcomes all people." Bitanya adds that there’s further benefit to taking this event online, and spreading it out over a handful of different dates:
"I think this gives us an opportunity to expand outside of Seattle and outside of Washington a little bit.”
There are two more live virtual Teen Action Fairs coming up - one focusing on arts, and one on youth engagement. They will go live at 6 pm Wednesday May 20th and 27th. Recordings of past fairs are on the Discovery Center’s website. Connecting kids to community - no matter where they're logging in from. And both of the teens we spoke to believe that’s especially important right now.
"Specifically for this year our messaging is around community and how in community we flourish, and how we are all interconnected, and how different things like the pandemic can effect some of our communities, and how that means that we have to step up,” said Bitaniya.
Noah adds that by taking the Teen Action Fairs online during the crisis he hopes to foster empathy, and awareness that will continue beyond the stay-at-home order. “Once we come out of this I would encourage everybody who wasn't before to step outside of themselves in some way, shape or form."