Whether they're fighting for disability rights, providing aid to impoverished regions, standing up for sexual assault survivors, banding communities together against gang violence or making strides to save the environment, Long Island millennials are active and vocal about the causes they care about.
Newsday selected six millennial activists who go above and beyond to affect change on local and, in some cases, national and international levels. We have highlighted their work in a series of stories. Learn more about the six activists below.
Do you know a millennial in your community who advocates for an issue they care about? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Babylon native Emily Ladau is a full-time disability rights advocate. Since starring on "Sesame Street" at age 10, she has been using her voice to represent the disability community, and offering a platform to those with stories to tell. Ladau is the editor-in-chief of the Rooted in Rights blog, leading a staff of disabled authors in their writing endeavors. She is also fighting for accessible spaces at social justice rallies and events. "It's one thing to let someone who has a disability into the room," she said. "It's another thing to bring them to the table."
Kyle and Brandon Persaud
When Kyle and Brandon Persaud were children, they took a trip to Guyana with their parents, who are natives of the South American country. While there, their lives were changed by a boy named Jason. After learning about his hardships as an orphan, they got the idea to start KB Operation Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides educational and medical supplies to impoverished villages around the world. Kyle and Brandon, 17 and 15, were also inspired by their mother, who spent more than six years living in orphanages in Guyana. "I definitely want my organization to grow from a small one right now that's comprised of about six people, to one that's going to be comprised of hundreds," Kyle said. "I want it to be an international hub for support for children."
Franklin Square native Elizabeth Osowiecki works at The Safe Center in Bethpage as an education coordinator and rape crisis counselor. She first started at the non-profit as a hospital advocacy volunteer, assisting sexual assault victims in hospitals all over Long Island. This cause is personal for Osowiecki, who said she was a victim of sexual assault while attending SUNY Purchase. While working at The Safe Center, she has noticed that the people recently calling for help seem empowered to speak about their experiences. "Maybe people who felt they could never say 'Me, too,' now really feel like they can," she said. "[They're saying] if that person can, I can."
At 17, Alexa Cox has already used her voice to advocate for several causes: anti-gang violence, tobacco product depiction in children's media, and lupus awareness. In Aug. 2017, Cox won the title of Miss Long Island Teen. She is using the pageant as a platform to talk about the gang violence in her community of Central Islip. She said, "I want to actually try and see if I can talk to any former gang members to get more insight on gang life and why people get involved in those types of things, to try to prevent other people from getting involved."
Mount Sinai native Ben May has made strides in environmental activism on local and national levels, from cleaning up Suffolk County beaches to meeting with President Barack Obama's Council on Environmental Quality. After graduating as valedictorian from Mount Sinai High School, May headed to University of Pennsylvania and plans to study mathematical economics and international relations with a minor in environmental studies. May said, "A very common thing that I like to tell people is that past generations worked to protect the environment so that their future children would have a beautiful world. But our generation is working to protect the environment so that our own children will have a future at all."