We place a lot of value on “firsts.” First love, first job, first day of school. We often remember them in vivid detail, and even if they weren’t positive experiences (what I would give to redo my first kiss), we usually look back on them with fondness. I think that’s because “firsts” remind us of the innocence and enchantment of new beginnings. On many occasions, “firsts” commemorate the start of a new chapter in our lives. But I published my first book to commemorate an ending.
I’ve built a beautiful little community during the past eight years of my life. I’ve seen my hometown moved by kindness and compassion and transformed by the power of youth. It all started with a simple idea. When I was ten, I began hosting parties and social events that positively benefited the world around us. I called them PhilanthroParties. From raising money through lemonade stands to accepting donations in lieu of gifts at birthday parties, I began to make social action a part of my social life. And it caught on. Soon, other young people in my community — friends, neighbors, fellow students, and total strangers — were throwing their own PhilanthroParties.
The success of these events inspired me to start a nonprofit organization called LemonAID Warriors. I started a blog and posted about successful PhilanthroParties in my community. I’ve found that young people have the best ideas and a natural sense of compassion, but a lot of the time they lack the tools to take action on their own and often aren’t taken seriously by adults. By teaching them how to host PhilanthroParties, my hope was that kids everywhere would be able to recognize their inherent power to impact the world around them and make social action a permanent part of their lives.
LemonAID Warriors had been a constant in my life for eight years. But halfway through high school, I found myself at a crossroads. I was getting older. College was rapidly charging my way. I wasn’t going to be able to oversee LemonAID Warriors for much longer. In addition, my passions were expanding and my interest in political advocacy was increasing, and I thought that maybe it would be time for me to explore new projects.
So I had the idea to write PhilanthroParties! A Party-Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back as an exit strategy. My intentions were to preserve and share a fantastic period of my life and to keep my message of youth empowerment alive — without having to constantly promote it myself.
My close friends thought it was super weird that I, a Gen-Z teenager, would opt for book-writing when I could simply pull out my phone and tweet my thoughts. But after running a blog for years, I wanted to create something tangible. I wanted to hold words in my hands and pass them along to others. Pixels felt too impermanent.
I had a clear vision from the start: a full-fledged DIY party-planning guide, complete with dazzling colors and beautiful images, that teaches kids and teens how to incorporate social action into their social lives. And let me tell you, it was hard to get people on board. I was lucky enough to find an amazing agent who helped me put together a proposal, but nobody seemed interested. Most publishers didn’t think youth would be interested in giving back. Young people are often perceived as self-involved and apathetic, but I know that could not be more false. Most of us are filled with compassion, but we just don’t know how to act on those feelings. PhilanthroParties are the perfect first step towards tangible social action. But it was hard to get adults to believe me.
Plus, I was fifteen when I wrote the proposal. I learned that very few publishers even consider publishing high school authors unless they have some celebrity status. Sadly, my 300 Instagram followers didn’t impress them. Nor did my “A” in sophomore English.
I was so close to losing hope. But then Beyond Words and Simon & Schuster contacted me. PhilanthroParties clicked with them. They understood my vision and wanted to make it a reality. I couldn’t contain my excitement.
So after almost two years of writing and editing, in between AP classes and research papers, PhilanthroParties! A Party-Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back was born. It’s everything I could have hoped for and more. It perfectly encapsulates this beautiful period of my youth and shares everything needed to throw your own PhilanthroParty.
People ask me what’s next, and to be honest, I have no idea. I’m starting college this fall with an undecided major. I know that philanthropy and activism will play a part in my future, but I don’t know how. I’m entering a blank chapter of my life and leaving a vibrant one behind. But I feel so rewarded knowing that it will live on in this book. While publishing PhilanthroParties! marks an ending for me, I hope reading it brings incredible beginnings for you.