This Organization Is Helping Young People Have Respectful Conversations Across Ideological Lines

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The news cycle in today's world seems to pass by in a blur. It's often difficult to maintain a clear perspective when so many events are happening each day, some joyous and some catastrophic. You can either choose to disengage from the system altogether—to become apathetic and live within a bubble where tragedy does not strike you—or learn how to improve it. Those who choose to live in a bubble, however, often forget that it isn't only protecting you from the "bad news" of the world. It's also trapping you.

Last summer, I attended a summer camp with over 200 international high school students. Our common ground? All of us were invested in the prosperity of our collective future, and were dedicated to determining what this future would turn out to be. To conquer such a difficult task, we turned to one of the basic yet most important tools—our words. Writing is permanent; well-articulated arguments engender thoughtful responses, continuing the debate rather than hastily ending it. A piece of writing has the power to make you stop and think. It is the manifestation of our desire to change the world, one word at a time. "Bridge the Divide," an online international collaborative forum to discuss all realms of political though, began as a conversation between two teenagers. One identified as Republican, the other as a Democrat. Yet they—and we—realized that our beliefs were rooted in contexts and stories, and that in understanding these stories, we become a little less divided. Building respect and fighting extremes is a lifelong effort. Our goal—to reduce political polarization—may have seemed utopian, but through tireless efforts, it became pragmatic. With a team of over 80 ambassadors from 27 countries, we have built a community. Whether we are sharing our views on political dilemmas (from gentrification to conservation) or learning more about each other through our recently developed pen-pal program, we are connected.

We are incredibly proud of the diversity of our articles, which range from the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa to black carbon reduction in Asia. We wholeheartedly believe that promoting respectful conversation is the key to nurturing exploration and inquiry. Rhetoric without foundations fragments a nation, but respectful words are a step in the right direction. By creating this community, we hope to build a generation that is politically engaged and involved.

It is our time to bridge the divide. Generation Z has the ability to take advantage of our knowledge and technology platforms to empower youth across the world to improve their communities and our world. This can only happen if we work together, overcoming our differences to understand our common future. A diversity of opinions must be encouraged, rather than subdued and disdained. We hope to unite politically-active students who desire to change the world and are tolerant of politically-diverse thought. We’re looking for ambassadors from the United States and from across the world. Whether you’re a policy aficionado or rarely read the news, we believe that everybody has a story to tell. As an ambassador, you can share your op-eds on topics ranging from climate change to gun rights. You will take part in real-time conversations and discussions with students from across the world. Become an ambassador for your community today at bridge-the-divide.com or stay updated on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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About The Author

Rachna Shah is a first year student at Dartmouth College, where she is interested in health economics and healthcare reform. As part of the Board at Bridge the Divide, she uses her words as a platform for change and responsibility, encouraging and enabling youth to stay informed and active in the political arena. Rachna is also a writer and editor for several literary and political magazines, including Young Minds, The Weekly Buzz, and Her Campus. When she is not writing, she can be found munching on almonds and listening to the news in French.