Written by By Rosemary Sadeghi, CNN
Genesis Verdejo is a 17-year-old senior in New York City. She plays a club soccer team and part-time studies computer science at college and university level in the mornings, then devotes much of her time to volunteer work and fundraising. While her hours may be constrained, her circumstances are not.
Growing up in Nicaragua, Genesis’s social circumstances were no exception to the frequent social change she witnessed as a child. Their plight was born of a social revolution.
She made an important decision at the age of 17. At her high school graduation, she launched her own non-profit called Make Peace, which aims to empower young Nicaraguan youth to make positive changes in their community and abroad.
Her initial program, Youth for Peace, which is administered through the Family Life Association of New York, will bring over 20 Nicaraguans from all social backgrounds together to learn conflict resolution, leadership, business and technology skills while living in an intern camp in Brooklyn.
I met Genesis at The New School’s Parsons School of Design during a documentary series sponsored by Chevron’s Chevron Mobility Program.
“I have created this organization, because I know that young people have so much potential and potential is to be good. What this program gives to them is what I have always wanted myself when I was young, which is the knowledge that you can do anything if you really try hard,” she said.
On its website, Genesis explains her mission as: “to educate youth in basic skills (so they) can contribute toward positive social change through practical hands-on activities, community service and transformative lessons that can last a lifetime.”
As far as the parents of her team members are concerned, Genesis has done them a favor.
“I am very happy and proud that my daughters are going to be trained by (Genesis) for life. We always complain about our daughters being tired and feel like they get tired just by talking to them. This allows them to improve their life skills which will allow them to integrate more well with people in their community,” says Iris García, Genesis’s mother.
Some of Genesis’s crew includes sisters Jaime and Mora García. The 15-year-old sisters were born into a family of 10 siblings, and as a result are used to being stretched.
“I really wanted to be trained by Genesis to help me enhance my talents to the maximum. I am very happy that now they are entering the world, but the next door they live in. There are not a lot of opportunities, and here they will also learn new things,” the older sister, Mora, says.
Lorin Nirenberg, who founded her own non-profit called Elephant Education Foundation, which also combines leadership training and community service, says that Genesis is leading the way in bringing quality programs to Nicaragua.
“She is very much plugged into her community and has helped introduce critical thinking and critical events to the community. It is the high level of positivity and passion for change that she has introduced to Nicaraguan youth,” Nirenberg said.
View Genesis’s website and learn more about her non-profit via her YouTube channel