Amazing Kid: Teen Helps Break the Chains of Poverty Through Literacy
Riley Carney is just 16 years old, but she realized early on the link between literacy and poverty. At 14, she founded Breaking the Chain, an organization that strives to provide educational opportunities for children living in poverty, both in the United States and abroad. Her activism has helped to build two schools in Africa and create a literacy center for children in a battered women’s shelter in her hometown of Englewood, Colo.
Riley, who has raised more than $90,000 for her charitable projects, is a Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes finalist. Now in its seventh year, the program recognizes outstanding kids for their contributions and community service by awarding 10 children a $7,500 scholarship each and another $2,500 to donate to their pet charitable causes.
Riley accomplished this by making two different videos to create awareness about literacy, which she showed at her high school/middle school. Also she began selling T-shirts which she designed herself, and by conducting a “jeans day” at school — students paid to wear jeans for the day — and by mailing out a large number of letters to members of the community. Today, her fund-raising efforts, and the two novels she has written, shows how much Riley, and literacyTee has changed the world.
“I’ve always been concerned with the welfare of children, since they can’t advocate for themselves.” says Riley. ” There are so many tragic things that happen to children around the world and they have no control over their own destinies. The cycle of exploitation and poverty can be broken through education, and the most important thing we can do to help children take control over their own lives is to provide them with the ability to read. Because there is a correlation between literacy and poverty, creating literacy opportunities is the key to eradicating poverty and exploitation.”
Teen Philanthropy is on the rise. Youth voice, youth involvement, youth participation, youth-centered programs, community youth development, meaningful youth engagement, youth civic engagement, child-friendly communities… Each of these titles are meant to summarize initiatives that are active, empowering, and democratic experiences for young people as they create change in their own lives, as well as the lives of others in the organizations, institutions, and communities they belong to. Stories such as Riley’s are not only inspiring, but prove that big change is possible.