We always get jazzed when we see young people getting involved in politics and social justice, especially teens, who are usually portrayed as apathetic, unconcerned and lazy. But, we know that there are many do-gooders and ass-kickers out there who give us great hope for the next generation, and Tiffany Chao is one of them.
Tiffany, 17, a senior in high school, has won awards in digital photography, earned a National Gold Medal and Regional Gold Key for Scholastic’s Art and Writing awards, and is the founder of You Are… Movement, a non-profit organization that strives to help teenagers gain confidence in themselves and prevent suicide and self-harm.
Motivated by the constant news of young suicides associated with bullying, Tiffany founded You Are… Movement last November. She explains: “In high school, you’re at an age where you are changing and experiencing new things, finding out who your true friends are, and discovering yourself. Today, we are in an environment filled with people trying to live up to certain images, sticking to a certain status quo, and judging others who are different from them. Society puts a definition on beautiful, and people adhere to it just so that they can be accepted in this ever-changing, fast-paced world. I was truly beginning to recognize how much of a difference words can have on a person’s life. My friends in other schools were being bullied because they didn’t abide by the things their friends did. They were being called names, getting anonymous hate messages on the internet, and dreading going to school. One teen-suicide was one too many and I knew I had to do something about it.”
And so she did. You Are… Movement encourages young people to forget about hateful words and to love and be themselves. The idea to capture a simple encouraging message with a snapshot was Tiffany’s way to combine her love of photography while promoting a message of strength in a way that her peers could relate to, via multiple social networks. Tiffany encourages people to post an image along with an encouraging message on the campaign’s tumblr page to help spread the word. Intending to comfort and inspire those closest to her, within a year, the You Are… Movement has expanded beyond its initial scope and now influences people all over the world.
The You Are… Movement is not only a campaign of awareness and support, it also raises money through fundraising concerts and by selling wristbands and t-shirts. A 100% of proceeds are donated to The Jed Foundation, the nation’s leading organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college students, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Tiffany sums it up perfectly: “No one seems to recognize the beauty about them; their strength, their belief that things will get better, and the way they keep their chin up even as things get tough. Being perfect is an illusion, being beautiful is an inner quality. You are… beautiful.”