One of the things I admire most about the young people I teach is their willingness to use those voices while they’re still finding their voices. We grownups are often afraid to speak our minds because we fear that we might one day change our mind or simply because we fear what others may think. But we should be much more afraid of what will happen if we stay silent.

Here are five ways you can use your words to make a difference.

VOTE! It’s election day, y’all, so vote! I know you don’t trust the system. Vote anyway. I know you feel as if you’re voting for the lesser of two evils. Vote anyway. I know you’re discouraged, disgusted, and disillusioned. Vote anyway. Get educated on the issues and vote. And use your blog, social media channels, and email list to encourage others to vote, too.

Raise money. Use your influence to raise money for your favorite non-profit. Every fall I raise about $1,000 for The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, an organization that funds programs designed to move women and their children out of poverty and toward financial security. My friends aren’t rich. I’m not rich (obviously — I’m a writer and a teacher!). But with blog posts, social media posts, and emails I use my voice to raise money that will make a difference in the lives of women in my community.

Raise awareness. If you don’t feel comfortable asking people for money ask for their time. Use your influence to share community service opportunities. Write blog posts, social media posts, and emails about a cause close to your heart explaining why you care about this issue and why your readers should, too.

Be a voice for the voiceless. Journalists, you are in a unique position to truly make a difference by being a voice for the voiceless. If there is a group of people in your community being disenfranchised or ignored share their story!

Encourage, educate, and empower. I went through a phase of feeling as if the writing I do didn’t matter because I’m not out here doing hard-hitting investigative journalism. Instead, I mostly write profiles, lifestyle features, and personal essays. But the profiles I write about people of color making a difference in their community add diversity to the publications for which I write and remind readers that representation matters. The lifestyle features I write help Birmingham residents fall in love with their city as they realize just how much she has to offer. And the personal essays I write — covering topics ranging from being a feminist wife to being a teacher who struggles with depression — show readers that they are not alone.


How do you use your words to make a difference?