National 4‑H Council and the Invisalign® brand have launched a partnership to empower and recognize young people who are creating change in their communities through acts of kindness and service—big and small. Because everyone—especially our youth—should be seen and celebrated for the good they are doing in the world.
I caught up with Kamal Bhandal, VP of Global Brand and Consumer Marketing for Align Technology, to talk more about the Invisalign® ChangeMakers Initiative and how the mother of two is inspiring her children to be a positive influence in their community.
What is a ‘ChangeMaker’?
Kamal Bhandal (KB): Simply put, a ‘ChangeMaker’ is someone who springs into action to solve a problem for the greater good of a community.
In what ways do you think the Invisalign® ChangeMakers Initiative will inspire young people to become change agents in their community?
KB: Everywhere you look, young people are actively driving change within their communities. In some instances, it may be a young person who leads a local blanket drive to donate to the local shelter, or it may be the young leader who activates their local school district to provide school lunches for families during the pandemic. There are many more examples all around the country, and often these are local stories that aren’t widely known, but provide tremendous impact in the community.
Align Technology’s Invisalign brand, in partnership with National 4‑H Council, has launched the Invisalign® ChangeMakers initiative to shine a light on these stories and elevate the young people who are driving change within their communities and bringing smiles. In doing so, we hope that more young people can see how teens just like them and feel connected to a larger youth community. Our collective goal with this partnership is to spotlight those inspiring stories so that every young person can see themselves as someone who can drive positive change within their communities.
Can you share some of the work Align Technology leads to inspire change in communities and how today’s youth can help support those efforts?
KB: Align is committed to improving the lives of our employees, customers, patients, stakeholders, and the communities in which we live and work. Our philanthropic philosophy is to support organizations whose visions tie closely to our own – improving smiles, empowering our customers through partnerships with learning institutions and foundations, and supporting and educating teens.
We are committed to developing youth leaders around the world. Here in the US, we’re actively partnering with leading organizations—like 4‑H—who are also committed to shaping and developing youth. Other partners include Junior Achievement including their S.H.E. Leads program, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Cristo Rey San Jose High School. Our partnerships with these organizations include mentoring, program support, as well as workshops that cultivate critical business and STEM skills, corporate work-study programs, and internships. Today’s youth can support these efforts by getting involved with the local chapters of any one of these programs.
As a mom of school-aged children, how are you inspiring them to be ChangeMakers? Why are those teachings so important?
KB: As a mom of a teen and a tween, I try to focus on a few things: (1) exposing the kids to a range of perspectives; (2) fostering empathy for others; and (3) supporting areas of individual interest. The teen years are a critical time in brain development as teenagers have an increased capacity to appreciate various perspectives. By learning about different communities and various ways to solve problems, it not only helps increase awareness of the variety of challenges that exist within communities, but it also stimulates more creative thinking on how problems can be solved. When it comes to having empathy for others, we try to create learning experiences that foster a sense of empathy—such as through volunteering or random acts of kindness—and provide support for a specific area of interest that is important for each of them. However small or large the individual interest area may be, we try to support and encourage the kids to drive change that will create positive impact, and also experience how that feels.
How do we continue to give young people a platform to share their ideas, experiences and innovation, and how will those ideas impact the future?
KB: Organizations like 4‑H that celebrate and support youth in cultivating their ideas are critical. Today’s youth are full of ideas and creative solutions that can help drive positive changes that will enhance the lives of others who are a part of their community – large or small. To give young people a platform to share their ideas, it’s critical that we:
- Create communities to help our youth feel that they are part of a bigger movement. People crave feeling a sense of belonging—being a part of a community—and young people especially need this today. If surrounded by other ChangeMakers who are trying to drive change within their communities, youth today may be inspired to take their own ideas and spring into action.
- Offer mentorship to advocate and make connections to unleash creativity– our youth need to feel that there are people in their corner advocating for their ideas, cultivating those ideas to bring them to life, and helping remove roadblocks if and when needed along the way. So many of us have networks full of relationships that may assist a young leader in bringing their idea forward – it’s on all of us to make introductions to people who may help a young person move forward and bring their ideas to life. Talented youth who are full of ideas about how to drive positive change are everywhere. We must provide platforms and mentorship that nurture and unleash their creativity—our future depends on it.