PROVING THE YOUNG CAN SERVE~REALLY WELL #StickYourNeckOut #GiraffeHeroes Young Amy Cada has led more successful fund-raising campaigns and created more service organizations than most people attempt in a lifetime. Each step of the journey she’s had to battle road blocks put in her way by both adults and peers. Cada’s leap into service work began when she wanted to honor her best friend’s memory and give back to a community that had supported her through the grief she felt after her friend died. Cada, then 15, was dismissed by countless local and national organizations as “too young” to be of use or as a “liability.” Frustrated by the rejections, Cada set out to prove that young people were superb volunteers. She connected with the pop-top collection program of the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which supports young cancer patients. Cada’s marshalling of young volunteers at school quickly resulted in a million pop-tops. She took that program nationwide, producing a 10-page starter kit and website to help students do their own pop-top projects. She conducted workshops and made national public appearances. A challenge she issued to students raised an estimated $15,000 and helped empower thousands of young volunteers. Cada went on to start KidzServ, an organization that provides community service opportunities to young people that are fun, easy, and accessible. She then helped found YouthLead, a campaign to build and support authentic youth-adult partnerships in communities and boardrooms nationwide. Cada took each and every step on her own. Teachers often failed to understand her absences. Peers called her “un-cool.” In an extreme instance, a graduation speaker at her high school commencement told an audience of 5,000 that Cada’s pop-top project was “dumb” and inconsequential. No one is calling her work dumb or inconsequential anymore. She has been a Pforzheimer Fellow of the National Civic League, has served as co-chair of the National Youth Summit and has produced numerous charity events, including a literacy day that sent volunteers into 15 inner-city elementary schools to read aloud to almost 6,000 students and give hundreds of books to needy classrooms. Her advocacy of youth-adult partnership has made some waves: at a CEO summit of America’s Promise, Cada asked Colin Powell why he had failed to create a decision-making partnership between young people and adults. He acknowledged the shortcoming, apologized, and pledged to create that partnership. Cada has more than proved her point that kids aren’t too young to make a positive difference in the world. “Service to and with others can be done by anyone, anywhere and at any time,” says Amy Cada. Update: Since her 2002 Giraffe commendation, Amy Cada earned an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland and went on to the University of Pennsylvania. From there she arranged to study at the University of Dar es Salaam.