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Mario Fedelin

Photo of Mario Fedelin

Fellow Mario Fedelin from 2019 Obama Foundation Fellows.

Los Angeles, California

Can make it on time anywhere in Los Angeles

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

As big thinkers and risk takers, young people have been at the forefront of social progress for generations. But while young people who are interested in sports or the arts can participate in groups, clubs, or after-school programs to pursue their passion, kids who want to get involved in their communities don’t have clear pathways to get started. Service opportunities that do exist often begin with high school or college-age youth. As young people miss out on these opportunities, society misses out on the imagination, courage, and hard work that kids could bring to transform their communities for the better.

Changeist (Opens in a new tab) is a Little League for civic action, helping youth build changemaking muscles from an early age. Each year Changeist brings together more than 200 young people ages 11-26 to engage in dialogue, and investigate social justice issues, ranging from housing to environmental justice. Over the course of 22 Saturdays between January and July, Changeist focuses on increasing youths’ civic knowledge and personal agency by placing them on diverse teams led by college-aged mentors, giving them space to practice leadership skills, and providing a place to try out local solutions to local problems. Mobilizing from over 60 zip codes in the city, these young people learn to empathize and work with peers from a variety of backgrounds. They learn from more than 50 partner organizations, and complete youth-led projects. Throughout the program, Changeist cultivates curiosity, gratitude, teamwork, and adventure, helping young people develop important changemaking skills while allowing them to exercise their agency and ultimately change the world.

"In our first cohort, we had a sixth-grader named Eddie. He was quiet, but when he spoke up, he would always have something really insightful to say. That year we explored Food Justice. Eddie’s team’s capstone project was building garden boxes for this community organization located in a food desert. On the last day of the program we held a family potluck.

Eddie’s mom walked in seemingly overwhelmed. She said to me, 'Sorry I'm so late, Eddie wouldn’t let me bring anything unhealthy today, and he has been doing this to me all month at home. He’s been making me cook stuff I’ve never had before.' While Eddie had an amazing year meeting new people, learning about social justice, and working together building garden boxes to do their small part, it was exciting to see what he did with that information without us even knowing. He exercised his agency and changed the way his whole family operated. The big is in the small things here at Changeist."