Above and Beyond: 16-year-old senior helps bring change with Fargo Youth Initiative
This is the latest installment of Above and Beyond, a regular video series that looks at people making a difference in their communities. If you know of someone who would make for a great story, email Austin Howard at email@example.com.
FARGO — Ed Shen is 16 years old and already a senior at Fargo Davies High School. To add to that impressive record, he makes an impact on Fargo through Fargo Youth Initiative.
Shen is the current treasurer for the group, which he joined after a suggestion from a friend.
"She was like, 'Hey Ed, I'm a part of this group and they do pretty great things, and I feel like you would be a great addition.' ... I just applied and then I got in," he said.
Fargo Youth Initiative's greatest appeal for Shen was seeing all the changes teenagers can make in their community. He believes it was an opportunity to be a part of something bigger.
"It was cool that we could have a group of high school kids that were almost hungry to make a change that they could see and they could be the change that they saw," he said. "I just thought that was the coolest thing and I was like, 'I want to be a part of that.'"
Not only has Shen taken the leadership role in a volunteer organization, but he has done so while having the challenges of mild aphasia, a disorder that impairs a person's ability to process language. The disorder never held him back.
"My greatest strength, I would say, is my adaptability and my drive. I wouldn't say I'm an easily beaten person. I would say I like to fight and am driven to do the things that I want. I don't let what one thinks of me get in the way," he said.
"For me, it's being confident in myself so I can do the things that I want and do the things that I need. I think I don't let my aphasia halt me from doing the things that I want. I won't let it decide the things that I do and don't."
Shen believes aphasia and other challenges he has faced can be an asset when he helps others in the group.
"I feel like I can relate to a lot of people with different backgrounds, per se. I feel like I can help them through what they are in and stuff, because chances are I've been there too," Shen said.
Ultimately, Shen's goal is to never settle, but to take a look at what there is now and see how he can continue to improve it.
"In a group, I feel like I'm that voice that says, 'But wait, is there a way we can do this in a more efficient way?'" he said. "I always try to challenge what we have done in the past because I feel like if we just say, 'Okay, here's the way it's always been done,' that might not always be the best way."
Fargo Youth Initiative hosts a yearly event in April that features a conversation between them and Fargo leaders about how to improve the local community.