High school senior Megan Chen has seen firsthand how environmental issues can impact communities. While she worked at an urban garden center in Newark, Delaware, she learned more about food insecurity in her city. Each week, she worked at one of the few farmer's markets in the area and spoke to many residents about their struggles with food insecurity.
Megan’s experience with social justice also relates to her identity. As an Asian American woman, she has firsthand experience with tackling tough conversations and overcoming personal insecurities. "From a young age, I learned about tough issues such as racism, and for a long time had my own cultural identity crisis where I did not know where I fit in,” she said. “Discovering my voice and passions from a place where I felt like I never had this opportunity or space has been amazing.”
"From a young age, I learned about tough issues such as racism, and for a long time had my own cultural identity crisis where I did not know where I fit in.”
Now, Megan has turned her experiences into action and uses her passion within her community to fight for a more sustainable future. “I want to inspire other youth to use their voice and create solutions to problems that they care about,” she said.
Megan is the Founder of The Urban Garden Initiative (TUGI), a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainability and environmental education. She inspires local youth to achieve urban sustainability through gardening. She is also the author of the children's book Finding Tiger that addresses implicit bias and stereotyping. “Through the process of writing my children's book, I was able to overcome the whole idea that young people can not use their voice to make a positive impact because they are 'too young' or 'don't have enough experience.'" she said. "Seeing how people of all ages reacted helped me to realize that I do have a voice."
"I was able to overcome the whole idea that young people can not use their voice to make a positive impact because they are 'too young' or 'don't have enough experience.'"
Megan was honored for her Environmental work through The ConversationaLIST, our annual honoree list recognizing exceptional Gen Z'ers making an impact. “I use my voice for good by educating youth on how they can become environmental changemakers in their community,” she said. “I want to inspire other youth to use their voice and create solutions to problems that they care about.”
In the future, Megan hopes to pursue social entrepreneurship and public policy to continue serving her community. She plans to start college in the fall to study environmental science, urban studies, and public policy.
In her free time, Megan enjoys figure skating, creating art, writing, and more. She also values self-care and taking time for herself. "Our society is so 'go, go, go,' it is okay to take a day off and take some time for yourself to do some little things that you love," she said.
In everything she does, Megan is passionate about bringing youth voices to the table and breaking the stigma that they cannot accomplish big things, which she cites as a value she shares with The Conversationalist. She believes creating more opportunities will help build a unified world. “We need to get more youth in the conversation,” she said. “We need to continue to speak out and use our voices and platform to share various issues that are going on globally. We can use tools that we have in our day and age, such as social media, to make a positive impact instead of a platform for comparison.”
“We need to get more youth in the conversation.”
She also believes that providing more opportunities for Gen Z to take on leadership roles will help break open echo chambers. "There are not a lot of resources for youth founders, and it becomes a lot to carry on your back alone," she said. "If there are more ways for youth to connect around similar issues that are dealing with running organizations and businesses, that would help to solve many of the issues we feel like we are taking on individually.”
Big snaps to Megan Chen and all she does to educate and inspire her community's youth. Keep up with her on Instagram to learn more about her at TUGI to learn more about urban sustainability and gardening.