If I were to describe my younger self, I would say that I was hopeful, resilient, and couldn't-see-for-a-lick. When I was in first grade, after taking a vision test I learned that I would need glasses. My parents supported me in finding the spectacles of my dreams! But, still -- every day before school I would hide these glasses and refuse to wear them. I knew what was going on - I saw the world the way as it was and these glasses were an ill-conceived ploy to try to force me to see the world like everyone else and I wasn't having it! I just knew that seeing the trees swirl as I approached was right, that seeing colors merge and flow seamlessly was the real beauty of it all.
Now, turns out this particular incident wasn't a plot by the Man. But, I've always felt that spirit of resistance and resilience in myself and mirrored in our leaders. And, all of them have vision -- this one-year anniversary celebrates us getting to a higher level of focus.
Those of us who identify as activists have all had a moment when a fire that we never knew was inside of us is suddenly ignited and forces us to stand up and demand change.
Today marks the one-year anniversary, or the first birthday as we like to call it, of that moment for Planned Parenthood Generation Action - a movement of passionate, committed young people across identities and issues that organizes with, by, and for their generation in order to achieve reproductive freedom.
As the associate director of this organization, I've had the honor and the privilege of transforming a group of energetic and committed volunteers and activists into a structured program that has proven to have a real impact of national proportions. I have also witnessed countless young people transform into activists before my eyes as they rise up to join our cause in the process.
As an activist, I know that becoming one was the easiest thing I've ever done. Sure - it has been unexpected and overwhelming, but what thing worth doing isn't.
So many people want to fight and feel inspired to become involved but are not sure how to start. That's why we spent the last year training over 1,000 young people all across the country on what it means to be an activist and how to advocate on the issues that matter most to them. We've also worked to transform our vibrant teen volunteers into community leaders as well - fighting for issues from comprehensive sex education to speaking truth to power at capitol buildings across the country.
As the largest and most diverse generation our country has ever seen, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure that our voices are heard and that communities that have been traditionally underrepresented and discriminated against have a mechanism in order to have their voices heard as well. We know that voting is one of the most powerful ways to accomplish this goal and as such we spent the last election cycle making sure that young people were aware of their voting rights and registered to vote, collecting over 12,500 voter pledge cards and registering over 1,000 young people to vote across 28 states.
We also know how important it is for this movement to be representative of all people - especially those who have been traditionally marginalized and silenced. This year, we decided to create a program specifically for young people of color, to become more deeply engaged with our issues and how they relate to their community.
A year later we now have a presence on over 250 college campuses, hundreds in training, and more young people reaching out to get involved than ever before.
But it hasn't all been fun and games. We've faced relentless attacks on women's access to safe and legal abortion, continued threats to dismantle the Affordable Care Act - which has brought access to affordable health care to millions of people, and racial injustice that has sparked a national dialogue.
It is the young people, who understand intersectional equality, who bring creative solutions to the table, and whose energy never ceases in the face of adversity, that continue to keep me hopeful.
What we've realized over this first year, is that this work has been just as much about us transforming young people into activists as it has been about young people transforming the movement for the better.
As we look to the future we will continue to create the community needed to imagine new possibilities for our movement. This summer, we will bring together many of our young activists across the country. We are taking a real stance on immigration reform and combating sexual assault, and a focus on making sure young people turn out the vote in 2016. Nearly 100 years ago when Planned Parenthood was first founded, birth control wasn't even legal yet. We've come a long way but we certainly still have a long way to go. And we can't do it alone.
To learn more about Planned Parenthood Generation Action and how to join please see www.plannedparenthoodgenaction.org.
Kelley Robinson is the Associate Director of Planned Parenthood Generation Action