A New World View

United States, March 12, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Amie Wells/Mercy Corps  </span>
    For Portland teen Danielle Knott (far left) joining Mercy Corps' Global Citizen Corps was a turning point in her life. Photo: Amie Wells/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Amie Wells/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Amie Wells/Mercy Corps

Joining Global Citizen Corps (GCC) opened up the world to Danielle Knott, linking her to a group of likeminded teens working to end poverty and showing her the ways she could take action in Portland, Oregon, her hometown.

“Joining GCC was a turning point in my life,” Knott, 16, says. “Before Global Citizen Corps, I wanted to make a difference,” says Knott, “But I didn’t know how to implement my ideas in my community. GCC has given me a window into what I can do with my future. It’s really got me focused on what I want to do with my life. It’s an important thing, to be given a new world view.”

Knott has acted on her ideas and values for a long time. In elementary school, she organized clothing drives for local shelters. Then, as a freshman at Portland’s St. Mary’s Academy, she took part in the school’s Poverty Awareness Day, which promotes students’ awareness and understanding of poverty issues, city-wide, nationally, and globally. That day, learning about the way poverty affected people everywhere, Knott realized, “These were all things that could be fixed; they just needed more people working on it together.”

Sophomore year, Knott transferred to Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukee, Oregon, just south of Portland and joined the Model UN club there, where students role-play being ambassadors from nations around the world, debating global issues. “Model UN was also a turning point,” she recalls. “I was interacting with all kinds of kids who were interested in the same issues I was. There I realized that I could be around these types of people all my life, and we could all do something together.” Recognizing Knott’s interest, the teacher who ran the Model UN at Putnam High encouraged her to join GCC.

Knott joined GCC and was also chosen as one of fifty national high school students to attend its annual Poverty Fighting Summit in New York City. A weeklong intensive anti-poverty workshop, the Poverty Fighting Summit teaches teens about poverty issues and give them expert training in how to become effective leaders and peer-educators in the fight against global poverty. It gave Knott the boost she needed to continue her activism back at her high school, where sometimes it’s difficult to get students’ attention. “Being around all the people at the summit, the speakers, students, and Mercy Corps staff was very inspiring,” she says. “It got me motivated to come back to a place where poverty, as a global issue, wasn’t being talked about a lot, and to try and raise awareness.”

On her return, Knott helped establish a club that she also named Global Citizen Corps, which hosted her school’s first hunger banquet—an awareness-raising event where each diner is randomly assigned a social status of being wealthy, middle-class or poor, and receives a meal with portions based on that status. The same club also held the school’s first World AIDS Day event, an open mike night where performers sang, played instruments, read poetry and danced. The event filled the school auditorium and raised money for YouthAIDS, a nonprofit dedicated to stopping the spread of AIDS.

Now a high-school junior, Knott is currently working on a Focus the Nation event to raise awareness about climate change and clean energy. She keeps in touch with friends that she made the Poverty Fighting Summit, who come from places across the nation—from places as different as Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Oregon. Even just knowing they are out there, working on these same issues, keeps Knott motivated. She’s excited about the path she’s on and ready to take it further: college. “I’m looking at colleges all the time and am really excited about my future,” she says. Her parents notice the difference in her too. “They’re really proud,” she says. “They’re excited that I have such focus and drive.”

Knott looks forward to the Mercy Corps Action Center opening in downtown Portland later this year. Educating teens about issues like global poverty, hunger and climate change, the center will give her peers access to the information and youth programs like Global Citizen Corps that have made such a difference in her own life. “I think that any teen that learns about what the Action Center represents, or takes part in any part of the GCC, will benefit. I’m excited about the Action Center opening in Portland and many of my friends here are too.”