(This interview is the first in a new WGFG interview series which spotlights girls taking action on their own ideas and running their own projects. Thanks to Lauren for being the first!)
Bothered by a story on the radio about the number of kids who can't identify the 50 states on a map, much less find Iraq on a world map, Lauren (then in the fifth grade)supported by her mom, Sharon, decided to do something about it.
Their multi-media project A Kids Guide 2 Politics is a website and book project aimed at taking the boring out of politics for kids. Lauren, now finishing 8th grade and excited about high school, took the lead on the website, creating the games, graphics and text, while Mom has taken the lead on the book. Working together as partners, they realized that young people perceive politics as boring, and as removed from their lives.
I asked Lauren what she thinks about teens' interest in the latest pursuits of Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton over politics or daily events. Lauren answered,
"Even though kids can't vote, everyone has the potential to be interested in politics. Hollywood and music is really exciting for teenagers, but politics affects our lives. Politics isn't as boring as it seems. Teenagers need to realize that Hollywood is not as important the politics and get involved now"
Lauren first became interested in politics after 9/11 when her curiosity took over. She wanted to know "why things were happening" and started listening to the news on the radio, and watching John Stewart's The Daily Show (the repeats on at 8pm the next day, Lauren mentioned-- 11pm being too late to stay up on a school night, of course!) Lauren has always liked writing and reading, and before working on this project made her own books and stories. Combined with a love of video games (including The Sims), building her own website with interactive games seemed like a natural next step.
Lauren created all the games and features on the website herself, after she stumbled on an application that no one was using on her home computer. After some experimenting, she's created mazes, quizzes, and "what if" scenarios. The book, like the website, will also include quizzes and games-- and won't just be text, sticking with the idea that kids need to be actively engaged. Lauren also told me, "It's fun to do it together with my mom and know that it is going to make a difference for people."
While the book and website project have taken a lot of time and effort over the last three years, Lauren also knows that is the little everyday acts that can make a difference. Frustrated and saddened by the genocide in Darfur, she got together a few of her friends to take up a collection at her school to donate. "Kids don'thave as much power as adults to make a difference, but we have to do what we can."