Rhizome was co-founded by 90 young people in August 2021. We have built a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is truly student-led: students vote to shape our goals, vision, and major changes to our work environment. Students also vote to approve nominees to our Board of Directors and decide our unified actions. We are built around the principle of participation: “nothing about us, without us”
We heal divisions, combat disengagement, and address the mental health crisis by creating civic communities. By inviting students to gain leadership experience and build healthy habits based on who they want to become, we inspire responsibility and produce paths to lifelong leadership. Civics equips people to create the world they want to live in, so we increase civic engagement.
We tested our student-led model in School Year 2022-2023, as Youth Organizers led 13 local Chapters of the Civic Service Fellowship. Fellows experienced greater civic efficacy, willingness to build bridges, and self-confidence as leaders - as well as improved determinants of mental health - while making an impact in their communities. As a student-led system, our experiment in democracy is working:
high schools with teams of Civic Service Fellows
peers who Fellows helped register or pre-register to vote in spring ‘22 and ‘23
of Fellows identify as women or nonbinary
of Fellows are youth of color or mixed race
of Fellows recommend Rhizome to others who want to increase civic engagement or build actions in community
Rhizome equips young people with the tools to become compassionate and effective lifelong leaders. Our community is grounded by three pillars:
Building relationships, conversations, actions
Choosing and shaping the actions we take
People linked by stories and shared purpose
In Year 1, our student-led network grew exponentially
There are emerging leaders in nearly every high school who want to lead local actions but do not have support structures to make a meaningful, purposeful, and sustainable impact. Leaders act in isolation, burn out due to minimal support, or come to believe they cannot make a difference. To solve this, we are co-designing a network that offers healthy early exposures to civic life, helps young people lead meaningful actions, and puts Fellows on paths to lifelong leadership.
Some things are easier done than said.
In an era when mental health has been declining for two decades, the root causes of the crisis run deeper than politics. Politics is an outgrowth of culture, just the tip of the iceberg. Any long-term solution for national well-being must start at the level of culture: who we are, how we spend our time, and how we treat each other.
We believe the only way for our country to heal - for us to create a safer, happier, and healthier society - is with time. Young people must come together to build systems that fit the needs of modern people, modern conditions, modern tensions. Our faith in meliorism is why we build civic power for young people to create the world they want to live in.
This is why we have worked so carefully to create a student-led, self-organizing system. It is why we are nonpartisan, with loyalty to people over party. And it is why we are deeply focused on the work ahead: waiting to be done, to be thought, to be felt.
Whether you are a high school student beginning your leadership journey or an adult who cares about the future of our country, we'd love to have you with us: