Crystal Chan from the United States is OD Young Person of the Month for November 2019!
Welcome to November!
Our Young Person of the Month is Crystal Chan from the United States of America! Crystal Chan is a 17-year old student activist from San Francisco, California. She serves as the Founder and President of SPACE 4 US, a community organization that empowers underprivileged young people to explore and pursue meaningful careers. She also represents District 7 on the San Francisco Youth Commission and reports for Channel Kindness, a digital platform created by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
Crystal is passionate about advocating for low-income families and leveling the playing field for underprivileged students to reach their full potential. In her free time, she enjoys knitting, hiking outdoors and trying new foods. Fun fact: Crystal can speak three dialects of Chinese!
Read her amazing story below and be inspired!
Crystal Chan is a student activist from San Francisco, California. She is the Founder and President of SPACE 4 US, a community organization that empowers underprivileged young people to explore and pursue meaningful careers. Crystal is passionate about advocating for low-income families and leveling the playing field for underprivileged students to reach their full potential. Crystal was inspired to start SPACE 4 US in the summer of 2018, after realizing that there were no programs in her community that provided career exploration resources for low-income students. Coming from a family with parents who didn’t get to go to college, don’t speak English and work in low-paying jobs, Crystal often feels lost when thinking about future career options.
The adults in her life work minimum wage and blue collar jobs that come with poor job security, so she has limited exposure to different career paths. Her dad is a hotel maintenance worker and her mom is disabled and unemployed. Compared to more well-off students, Crystal simply doesn’t have access to the same social networks or connections that can introduce her to the diverse career opportunities out there. Many of her friends and peers from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, Crystal says, feel the same way: they don’t know what they want to pursue and they want to explore different careers, but they lack the resources to do so.
To help kids who are struggling like herself access career exploration resources, Crystal applied for grants and organized career networking events for high school and college students in the Bay Area. She invited professionals from different career fields to speak on panels and lead career workshops so that their students can get a glimpse of what it’s like to work at their jobs. While programs out there limit their services to a certain age group or to only students who have prior affiliation with the program, SPACE 4 US welcomes all students who are interested in joining to get involved. And instead of just meeting professionals, they give students the opportunity to learn about jobs through hands-on, interactive workshops. Additionally, their professionals come from diverse career fields instead of just one industry.
Crystal believes that the opportunity to access a fulfilling career is a basic human right and she wants to make sure students everywhere have the chance to learn about careers that inspire them. Through SPACE 4 US, Crystal Chan is taking a first step to level the playing field by empowering students in her community to pursue a career that brings them both professional fulfillment and financial stability. She says, when young people are given the opportunities to succeed, individuals, families and communities can break out of the poverty cycle, reach their full potential, and achieve economic
and social equality.
On Her Successes
So far, they have organized 7 career networking events, brought career workshops to students at 6 nonprofits, and directly impacted over 130 students in the Bay Area. They have built a community of over 65 volunteers who have spoken on a career panel, led a career workshop, or wrote a blog post for their website. They have also raised over $15,000 in funding for SPACE 4 US and brought students to visit different companies in San Francisco, including LinkedIn and Cloudflare.
Earlier this year, Crystal was invited to be a TEDxYouth speaker at a local high school. In her talk, she explored why connecting underprivileged young people with professional resources is essential to leveling the playing field and achieving economic and social equality. This year, Crystal launched the SPACE 4 US chapter program to mobilize and empower youth to organize career exploration events in their own communities. They currently have some youth-run chapters in San Francisco, and she hopes to expand their existing chapter network to schools and universities around the world and engage more young people to get involved in the movement. She is also working to create an app that connects students with mentors who work in careers they’re interested in.
On Obstacles She Encountered
The most difficult part, Crystal says, is securing funding for her project. When she first had the idea of organizing career events and started applying for grants, she realized that most grants require a fiscal sponsor. Although grant makers welcome youth to be at the forefront of social movements, they also require youth projects to have the support of a community-based organization in order to directly receive funding through that organization. As a result, it takes much longer to organize events as they have to submit all project expenses for approval before they can confirm event details.
Her Word of Advice to the Youth
SPACE 4 US visit to LinkedIn
Take initiative. If you see an issue in your community, take action to solve the problem. No matter how young you are or how small you might think your project is, your efforts will make a positive difference and cause a ripple effect. Always lead with compassion and empathy, and you will inspire other young changemakers to follow your lead. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people around you – rely on your mentors and support networks to help you further your work.
You can connect with Crystal on Instagram!