A Camas teen is among a small group of “changemakers” being honored for inspiring kindness on a local, national and global scale.
The Brooklyn, New York-based Riley’s Way Foundation, named in honor of Riley Hannah Sandler, “promotes a future where kind leaders build a better world and “empowers young leaders to use kindness and empathy to create meaningful connections and positive change,” according to the group’s mission and vision statements.
The Foundation’s annual Call for Kindness campaign, which began in 2019, rewards young “changemakers” between the ages of 13 and 22 who have created projects that, according to the Foundation, “inspire kindness and strengthen their local, national or global communities.”
Jean Lin, 17, of Camas, is one of those changemakers recently honored by the Foundation’s Call for Kindness campaign.
The Camas teen founded her award-winning project, Leaders Across the World, in July 2020, after participating in the U.S. Department of State’s Youth Ambassadors exchange program to Belize and meeting students from around the world.
Today, Lin’s Leaders Across the World nonprofit has led four 6-week virtual exchanges with more than 450 youth from at least 45 countries in an effort to “promote cross-cultural understanding, develop global knowledge and empower international participants to eliminate social issues within their communities.”
Lin, the founder and chief executive officer of the Leaders Across the World nonprofit, works with a team of five other young people from across North America, including a director of social coordination from Chicago, an events director from Philadelphia, a director of resources from Boston and an outreach director from Canada. Lin added that, while the core team resides in North America, the nonprofit’s regional leaders are scattered throughout the world.
The group hosts 6-week virtual exchanges with other young people. Each week carries a new theme – the youth may discuss environmental issues one week and women’s rights the next – but the sixth week is always focused on leadership skills, Lin said.
“One major thing that comes from cross-cultural learning … is that (young people from) other cultures, other countries have different solutions to problems,” Lin said. “Young people talk to each other about problems within their own communities … and then separate into groups to (discuss) community change or solutions.”
The program also provides young experts to help the Leaders Across the World participants better understand certain issues and solutions, Lin said.
“We bring in experts who are young-ish – under 30 – who have made change in their communities,” she said. Those experts have included journalists, environmental activists and members of Future Business Leaders of America.
The Leaders Across the World nonprofit was one of 36 Call for Kindness winners and will receive a $3,000 award.
Lin plans to use the money to help fund projects hosted by Leaders Across the World members during the group’s Environmental Advocacy Month in September.
“We are interested in funding around 30 projects and have also secured funding from other sponsors,” Lin said. “It’s an exciting initiative.”
Shonda Smith, the communications director for the Riley’s Way Foundation, said the organization’s Call for Kindness project is dedicated to giving “more visibility to amazing young leaders like Jean.”
The Foundation also likes to continue lifting up its Call for Kindness recipients, Smith said.
“Once you’re a Call for Kindness fellow, you don’t go away,” Smith said. “We’ve had fellows come back and run demos for us, for the staff.”
When it began in 2019, the program had between 10 and 20 Call for Kindness fellows, Smith said. Now, the program is rewarding nearly 40 youth each year.
Founding her own cross-cultural nonprofit has proven to be an uplifting and mind-opening experience for Lin.
“This experience has been a really great learning opportunity … to learn about my local community and places around the world,” Lin said. “These young people are passionate and really invested in what they do. They’re invested in helping their communities. It has inspired me.”
Lin, who was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Clark County in 2008 and moved from Vancouver to Camas in May 2021, is an incoming senior at Union High School.
When she isn’t busy organizing virtual youth exchanges for Leaders Across the World, Lin is involved in her local Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) group and has served as an FBLA state officer for the past four years.
“It has played a huge role in my life,” Lin said of FBLA, “(teaching me) critical leadership skills, public speaking, planning events (and making) social media pitches.”
Lin was a competitive swimmer for eight years. Although she stopped swimming during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lin said she is considering getting back into the sport.
Lin lives in Camas with her family, including her parents, Roger and Doris Lin, and her sisters, Ashley and Joanne.
The family’s move to Camas in 2021 proved to be a hit with Lin.
“I love the nature here. I enjoy going on walks with my parents,” Lin said. “We go every single day if the weather is nice. We walk around the neighborhood and go through the park. I love Camas.”
Lin also enjoys traveling from her home base.
“I would love to visit different parts of Asia,” Lin said. “I’ve been to Taiwan … but would love to visit Korea or Japan. I love the culture there.”
To learn more about Leaders Across the World, visit leadersacrosstheworld.org. To learn more about the Riley’s Way Foundation and its Call for Kindness campaign, visit rileysway.org and rileysway.org/call-for-kindness.