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Everything American Girl creates starts with story. While we’re best known for characters who empowered an entire generation, our 35th birthday celebration gives voice to real girls whose stories—and actions—have inspired others to change the world.

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As we amplify their accomplishments and honor our authors, we encourage your family to join the conversation! Learn more about Iris, Genesis, and Haven below. And be sure to check out Love the Earth and Kira Down Under—the newest additions to an American Girl library filled with engaging characters, advice, and activities that inspire girls to help change the world with confidence and compassion.

Check back throughout the year to hear from more amazing young women.

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Watch and inspire your family, just in time for Earth Day!

Source: Group Nine Media

 

April 2021

You’re never too young to make a difference. It’s a fact that’s been proven over and over again by young climate advocates Iris Zhan, Genesis Butler, and Haven Coleman. See how they’re raising their voices—and raising awareness—in this Conversations for Change episode.

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Here's a letter from Iris that you and your girl can read together.

Iris Zhan, 16

Co-founder, Fridays For Future Digital + Founder, local hub of the Sunrise Movement

Dear American Girl community,

Hello, I’m Iris Zhan. I’m a 17-year-old climate activist.

My journey started when I was in third grade and learned about the climate crisis in school, which was enough for me to immediately care. Scientists have been telling us for decades that climate change will result in catastrophic damage to our planet and that is happening right now and the time window to prevent the worst is quickly closing. We the young people are the most affected by the climate crisis and we cannot wait any longer for action.

I found my calling to get involved in making a difference. I started petitions, wrote to my local newspaper, lobbied my elected officials and attended demonstrations when I was 13. At 15, I founded the first youth-led climate group in my community, a hub of the Sunrise Movement in 2019. I became a national trainer for Sunrise Movement (sunrisemovement.org) at 16. I was the key organizer of my school’s climate strike and the coordinator for all the climate strikes in my county for the largest globe climate strike in history on September 20, 2019. I co-founded Fridays For Future Digital, (FFF Digital) in the spring of 2019. FFF Digital (digital.fridaysforfuture.org) has become a global movement of people taking digital actions because of the COVID pandemic. We are focused on increasing impact and accessibility in the climate movement through digital actions and campaigns, especially for the most affected people and areas, or MAPA.

How can you start? Start small; you can’t do everything overnight. Learn to be patient with ourselves because we are human and imperfect. A lot of what I have learned has been through trial and error experiences. Take as many opportunities you can without burning out. Always keep your mind curious and open, and never stop trying and learning new things. Be persistent no matter what obstacles come your way, because we are not alone in this fight and when we persevere, real change does happen. Your impact will reach far to places unimaginable.

I’ve learned you don’t have to win the approval of others in order for your voice to be validated. People are wrong when they say you are too young, too loud, too bossy, or too crazy, not being a “nice girl.” If you don’t like the way the world is, you gotta change it and you do have the power to do that. I have shown that it’s possible.

I have become one of the most vocal Asian female climate activists, which defies the stereotypes of the model minority myth, and the submissiveness of Asians and women. I hope my story can inspire more young girls to get out of their comfort zone. Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. I am telling you that it is worth it in the end as you will meet amazing people, have incredible experiences, and grow stronger as a person. You are never too young to make a difference.

Love,
Iris Zhan

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Here's a letter from Genesis that you and your girl can read together.

Genesis Butler, 14

Founder, Genesis for Animals + Founder, Youth Climate Save

Dear American Girl community,

My name is Genesis Butler and I’m 14 years old. I started my journey as an activist when I was only 6 years old. I became an animal rights activist and started attending marches and speaking at events. I would ask people to extend their compassion to all living beings on this planet. When I was 10 years old, I was chosen to give a TEDx talk so I researched topics for my talk and that’s when I learned about climate change and how it is linked to animal agriculture. This was something I know a lot of people don’t know about so I chose this as the topic for my speech. I became a climate activist shortly after because I could still speak up for animals, but also the planet too.

Around this same time, I also founded my non-profit, Genesis for Animals, which is an organization that funds animal sanctuaries throughout the United States. I decided to start my non-profit after spending time at one of my favorite organizations, New Life Animal Sanctuary. New Life is an organization that is devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of animals who are saved from laboratories. These animals once lived in labs where they were tested on regularly, never seeing the outside world until they became residents at New Life. The founder, Gina Lynn, would tell me about the high cost of providing animals with a forever home so I wanted to do something to help Gina and other sanctuary owners. I have raised over $20,000 for sanctuaries in the U.S.

In addition to founding Genesis for Animals, I also founded Youth Climate Save in 2020. Youth Climate Save is the first youth led climate organization that focuses on animal agriculture and its link to climate change. I put out a call to action on my social media page asking for youth to join me and in just a few months, chapters were started by youth from around the world. These countries include the United States, Canada, India, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Spain, Ecuador, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Germany, Holland, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Zambia, Nigeria, Guatemala, Tanzania, and Australia. We use social media to educate people about issues related to the environment and climate change.

I’m often asked for advice from others about how they can make a difference. One tip I share with other youth who want to make an impact in their own community is to not be afraid to speak up about an issue you are passionate about. You may get intimidated because people might say you are too young to make a difference or that one person can’t make a difference, but this isn’t true. We all have the power to help change the world and make it a better place. If you can find other girls who have the same passion as you then that’s great, but remember, you can also make a huge impact on your own!

Thanks for taking the time to read my letter.

- Genesis

Haven Coleman

Here's a letter from Haven that you and your girl can read together.

Haven Coleman, 14

Co-founder, US Youth Climate Strike + Founder, Arid Agency

Dear American Girl community,

I've always been very loud and proud while standing up for what I believe. When I was in third grade, I tried to save the manatees by holding a mini money drive to adopt one. I was successful, and I named him Cheese. I did the same for red pandas the next year.

In fifth grade, I learned how deforestation and climate change affect so many animals in the Amazon rainforest, including my favorite animal, the sloth. I wanted to do something, and my mom helped me find the Climate Reality Project. I received training and taught students across my city and state. I used my voice to talk to my local and state politicians at city board meetings and town halls. I also stood up against the coal power plant polluting my community's mountain air!

I learned my voice has power, and so does yours. Adults would listen to me and respect my ideas when I spoke up. Even when they wouldn't, I didn't let it bother me or slow me down. In 2019 I co-founded US Youth Climate Strike, which brought the Student Strike movement to the US. In one coordinated action, we organized thousands of youth across the country to fight against the climate crisis.

After witnessing what can happen when young people use their voice and strength to create change, I founded Arid Agency. Arid's goal is to boost positive campaigns and bridge the gap between adult-run organizations and younger generations' creative power. Arid's first campaign is bringing air purifiers to people in need. Climate change is happening now, and we need to adapt to it, but low-income communities are being left behind. Our goal is to provide relief to communities most affected by wildfires and air pollution.

There are so many ways you can get involved in your community. Did you know that you can talk to your city council and representatives about change? You can join local organizations making a difference, like Moms For Clean Air Force. They connect moms and kids across the country advocating for clean air. I've found if you want to do something, make a simple plan, start small, get some help from an adult, and make it happen!

Haven Coleman

 

February 2021

Black stories matter, which is why we’re kicking off our Conversations for Change series with the voices of Marley Dias and Paris Williams. These incredible young changemakers have inspired others to find the kind of courage that transforms conversations into change.


 

Watch with your girl and inspire important conversations.

Source: Group Nine Media

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Here's a letter from Marley that you and your girl can read together.

Marley Dias, 16

Founder of #1000blackgirlbooks

Dear American Girl community,

Happy New Year! I hope you are well and staying safe. Five years ago, the Philly Voice ran an article about my campaign; this article amplified my story and propelled me into this larger public life. I was only 11 years old, and admittedly I didn't know what this spotlight would mean for my life. I was nervous and excited about what my teachers would think and how my ideas would be perceived by those I cared about.

Looking back now, I realize that I was almost numb to the experience. I focused on making sure that the world understood racial and gender exclusion issues and I didn't take any time to enjoy these special moments. While I wish I had soaked up more of the perks along the way, I am proud of my unrelenting focus and hard work. I want our society to see, hear, and value those often excluded, starting with girls like me. I began by aiming to collect 1,000 books where Black girls were the main character because I am a Black girl, and I knew what exclusion felt for Black girls. I always try my best to be clear that I want us to create space for ALL of us, that’s why I support campaigns led by other kids with entirely different experiences than mine. We cannot do things as usual. We need to expand our focus, and kids need the support of parents throughout this journey. Caregivers need to listen, support, and dream with the children in their lives. They need to ask them questions, show them the wonders of life, and show them that they don't have to wait to "grow up" to help others and change the world. With my caregivers' and community's support, I have now collected over 13,000 books where Black girls are the main character. With the right encouragement and resources, a story of activism like mine will become the norm rather than an exception.

 

Happy Reading,
Marley Dias

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Here's a letter from Paris that you and your girl can read together.

Paris Williams, 7

Founder of Paris Cares

Dear American Girl community,

My name is Paris Williams and I am 7 years old. I started my own foundation called The Paris Cares Foundation and my mission is to feed as many homeless as possible. I make Paris Cares packages filled with food items. Each package has a positive word written on the bag to give hope to the homeless. I also hand out hygiene kits for those in need or deliver them to local shelters.

The Paris Cares Foundation has provided lunch to essential workers, toys for homeless children for Christmas, Christmas Eve dinner for a local shelter for teens, and Paris Cares packages of food were delivered to many homeless through the St. Louis community. During the winter months, we have handed out hats, gloves, and hand warmers. In the summer months, we deliver ice, water, and Gatorade to those in need. It brings me joy to help my community.

I want to reach as many homeless people as possible because I love seeing the homeless happy when they open the bags. My goal is for my foundation to keep growing and help as many people as I can.

Tips for giving back to your community:

  • Ask your parents
  • Make sure it is safe
  • Start small with items you have at home
  • Never go alone
  • Set a small goal and work toward it
  • Get your family involved

Always remember to be kind and help others when you can.

- Paris

Follow my journey on Instagram @pariscaresfoundation

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Spark conversation. Create Change. Download free.

You can find stories written by Black women and featuring Black heroines to share with your girl in our free online library.

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Meet Kira Bailey, choose a Truly Me doll for your girl, or Create Your Own.

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Check back throughout the year to hear from more amazing young women.

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