Ryan talks with kids at the Disney Friends for Change Youth Summit this spring. / MATT STROSHANE/DISNEY CHANNEL
Your new Friends for Change
This week, Disney launches Friends for Change Ambassadors, a lineup of young Disney Channel stars who’ll volunteer and encourage kids to plan action of their own.
Debby Ryan, Bella Thorne and Zendaya Coleman of Shake It Up! and Ross Lynch and Laura Marano of Austin & Ally are among the ambassadors.
This fall, Disney Channel stars and their fans will join millions of people helping others on USA WEEKEND’s Make A Difference Day, Saturday, Oct. 27.
Debby Ryan is so set on volunteering that the teen recently flew from her family’s home in L.A. to India to help a village. “I mixed mortar and laid bricks for the walls of a new school that will help break the cycle of poverty,” says the star of Disney Channel’s Jessie. “It was an incredible experience.” Now, she aims to inspire young people to volunteer. We asked for details:
Why should kids care?
"People think we’re too young, too small, too singular or too remote. As a result, this placid, insecure face of apathy seems to be the trend, and it’s tragic. The coolest, most powerful thing we can do is fight for what we believe in.”
Why did you start volunteering?
“My family has always encouraged me to volunteer. When I was in sixth grade, we would go to senior citizen centers, and I would paint some of the women’s nails and visit with them. My mom worked at a nursery, and I volunteered a lot with the kids. Changing diapers at the age of 13 for free has to be nothing but a labor of love! The older I got, the more I discovered my personal passions.”
What can kids do this summer while out of school?
“Discover what you care about, and look for opportunities in your neighborhood to get involved,” Ryan says. “If you care about animals, find a local shelter. If there isn’t a group that does what you want to do, grab your friends and start one. Summer is about adventure!
“The best actions come from you. What are you good at? Grab talented friends and put on a concert or play to raise money for arts programs in your school. Go treasure hunting in your closet for clothes you don’t wear and give them to people who can’t afford them. Make sure whatever you begin is something you can still carry out to some degree once you go back to school.”