Recently, a couple of kids in my class started an organization called Masks for All New Mexico, which stems from a similar teen-led organization in California. There are also Masks for All branches in New York and New Jersey.

The organization’s mission is to distribute free masks to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. This is particularly important in New Mexico, where there has been an average of 145 new cases of the virus reported every day for the past two weeks; as of Thursday, the state had 6,472 reported cases. These types of organizations are perhaps most important for more rural areas of the state, which have less access to health care than urban counties and have been hard hit.

I haven’t been a part of this organization long enough to be able to assess its impact — all branches of Masks for All are relatively new — but I can speak to the role that social media and teens have in stirring change.

Social media doesn’t always have a great reputation — sometimes for good reason. But without platforms like Instagram and Facebook, how else could organizations like Masks for All spread the word about mask distribution events? How else would we be able to connect with other branches and similar organizations to support one another and gain recognition?

We have seen teenagers take initiative on social media in so many different ways in recent years, from walkouts to protest gun violence and address climate change to this new initiative to distribute masks amid an unprecedented pandemic. It’s amazing to see young people doing things that not only benefit their immediate circles but larger local communities — and ultimately, the entire planet. Efforts like Masks for All help make the world a better place, and I feel fortunate to play a role in it, albeit in a very small way.

When I was younger, I had the discouraging and unfortunately common mindset of “I am just one person, so what I do doesn’t matter.” As I entered high school, however, I learned that’s not true. The more people who have this same defeatist mentality, the more unlikely it is for there to be real change.

I’m not the only teen from my generation who has participated in various protests and marches, such as those in support of Ferguson, Mo., police-shooting victim Michael Brown, against school shootings like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and for environmental protection. These events were made possible because of youth-led passion for social justice and protection of Mother Earth. Usually, the momentum starts with one individual.

I don’t know the teen or group of teens responsible for coming up with Masks for All, but I can say I’m proud to have joined them. I’m glad to be a member of a group that strives to make a difference at a time it’s needed most. Despite the struggles of today, I am glad to be growing up now — to be part of a generation that believes we can change the world.

Niveditha Bala will be a senior in the fall at Mandela International Magnet School. Contact her at niveditha.bala@mandelainternationalschool.us.

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