Kelly Lovell On Motivating and Inspiring Youth!
Kelly Lovell is a young motivational speaker and entrepreneur from Canada who has used her voice to empower and engage young people across the continent.
We recently spoke with Kelly about what inspired her to inspire others, and about the importance of believing in yourself and making a difference in the world!
Kelly Lovell never anticipated she would one day set out to be a motivational speaker or a youth media figure. Rather, her experiences shaped her future.
"It really came organically from my experiences in school," Kelly explained. "I was bullied and I didn't really have a lot of self-esteem or self-worth. I was always told the things I couldn't do and always made aware of my limitations, or what I wasn't good at."
Kelly didn't have a support network in school. She struggled to find motivation.
"It wasn't until, through my stubbornness, I just got frustrated enough where I decided that I would take a chance and I would act on one of my ideas," Kelly said.
She started small, by working to make a difference in her community. She was on the city youth panel, and it was her responsibility to design an event to engage the community's young people.
She later created a program to connect her peers through a volunteerism campaign for the provincial initiative called Change the World.
"I had this little idea to do this competition between schools to motivate youth to sign up and donate three hours of volunteer work," Kelly said. "In a 2-week span, we had generated over 2100 volunteer hours through the program I created."
When Kelly saw the fruits of her efforts, she realized that she really did have a voice.
"My one idea already had this profound impact," she said. "I realized that I, as a young person, could make a difference, and even play quite a big role in my community."
Kelly was empowered. The experience inspired her to push the boundaries further.
"I wanted to become that support for others that I didn't have growing up," she said. "That's how it all started."
Soon, this developed into Kelly's passion for motivational speaking. She took the stage for the first time in front of a massive audience.
"I decided for my own closure after being bullied I wanted to share my story and my experiences, and I decided rather than sharing it with a couple of close friends and colleagues, I wanted to share it on a stage in front of 7000 of my peers at We Day," she said.
Kelly had been a competitive dancer since she was 3, so she had no reservations about being in the limelight.
"It's something I did take naturally to," she said. "Everyone else is really intimidated by motivational speaking, but I used to be the nerdy kid in the class who loved presentations and getting up in front of the class. I wasn't intimidated by it at all."
She found that the We Day experience validated everything she believed she could accomplish.
"I got a lot of feedback from my peers who had come to me and said they were really inspired by my story, and asked how I went about doing this, how I overcome my hardships," she said.
She also realized her story had such an impact because it was shared among peers.
"My story was effective was because I was one of them," she said. "If I could overcome my hardships, they could too. They were able to relate to me on a level that was different from a speaker or a teacher or someone else coming into the classroom."
The moment she stepped onstage as a We Day speaker in 2012, she knew she couldn't stop there. Thousands in the audience already shared her passion for making an impact in the world, but she could touch the lives of even more people.
"My brand itself has been built on foundation of really embracing my voice," she said. "My theory is that a lot of the time bullies sense your potential, and the very traits you're bullied for are the traits that make you unique and are really your greatest assets."
She explained that often, a big step in overcoming bullying is embracing those traits.
"I started to embrace my personality," she said. "From being the shy, quiet, introverted girl, I ended up becoming the most bubbly, energetic person you will ever meet. I came into my own, embracing my voice and continuing to share it and letting that wave of inspiration, that ripple effect, grow from there."
One of the biggest steps for Kelly was to create a campaign called My Clean City
"We determine our own potential and our limitations," she said. "A lot of the time what we feel are barriers, roadblocks and obstacles in our path are self inflicted. If we have that passion and drive we can write our own success story."
My Clean City is based on those principles. Many organizations struggle to engage youth and get them to volunteer. The campaign acts to bridge the gap between the government, schools and organizations and the young people that want to get involved.
But Kelly refused to smart small. She was afraid a regional campaign wouldn't leave a lasting impact on the larger problem.
"I wanted to create something to generate a sustainable ripple that would shift the problem in the industry," she said. "I wanted to do a national program."
Almost every one of Kelly's mentors told her to give up on the idea of a national program, insisting she would never succeed at such a large scale.
"But the point of all the work that I do is I want to show my peers that I walk the walk, essentially," she said. "If I'm telling them that anything is possible, and that with passion and drive you can overcome those limitations and transform the impossible to possible, my work should reflect that."
Kelly stuck with her guns and pushed forward with My Clean City as a nation-wide campaign.
The idea was inspired by Kelly's own experience with volunteering. Though Kelly considers herself a "classic overachiever" and was always highly involved in clubs and schoolwork, she wasn't ever involved in volunteerism.
"I viewed volunteerism as this chore pushed on us for graduation," she said. "I think a lot of youth see that and have that negative attitude. I built My Clean City based on the mindset and premise of that, trying to shift the perspective of volunteer work to volunteer play, making it as fun and engaging for youth to get involved."
She hoped to turn volunteering into a challenge you do with friends, where you are rewarded and recognized for the impact you make. For some kids, all it takes to get involved is to be acknowledged.
"It's important to recognize what we're doing in our community," she said.
She also created The YOU Effect, a TV show, web series and social media movement that aims to empower young people.
"The YOU Effect was created on the basis that, through my leadership networks, I've met some incredible young people doing amazing things, from 12 year olds advocating policy change to 14 year olds who've developed motion sensor belts for the blind," Kelly said.
But as Kelly has traveled the continent to various leadership conferences, she has run into the same types of young leaders.
"I realized we weren't really engaging a new demographic of leaders," she said. "Organizations were built around over-achieving teenagers like myself. We weren't really inspiring and creating opportunities for new young people."
She said the stereotype that today's young people are self-absorbed also gets in the way of some teens meeting their full potential.
"A lot of the time our society sees us as the 'me generation,'" she said. "But I've never met a more caring and more involved generation."
In fact, volunteerism rates are higher than ever in the U.S. and Canada.
"I wanted to bring awareness to the stories of young leaders making a difference in a way with peer-to peer-empowerment, showing others who aren't engaged yet that if others do it, they can too," she said. "The premise was to share those stories, but a common theme in the work that i do, whether it's My Clean City or my speaking, is all about making it fun and engaging."
She hopes to be able to redefine the role of community leaders, allowing younger people to really take charge.
"Social media is literally the greatest tool young people have," she said. "We don't have finances and we don't have resources, but we have our voice and we have media. If we can harness those two tools and inspire a wave of change, our potential is really limitless."
Through social media, a teen's impact can spread beyond just the small group of people they know.
"I'm a big advocate of the idea that youth are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today," Kelly said. "A lot of the time we view us as inexperienced, with an excuse to be unqualified. Some people view us as naive, but I think youth is our greatest asset. We can see the world. We're not jaded yet."
She added that young people are innovative go-getters, and they are free to question the status quo and ask questions about why the world is the way it is.
"I've met the most tenacious 9-year-olds who really put leaders on the spot, pointing out the elephants in the room," she said. "That tenacity, that curiosity and innovation is at the root of the solutions to some of the world's greatest problems. That's where we're going to find a lot of those solutions."
In fact, Kelly goes as far as to say that young people have more power to affect change than they will when they grow older.
"If we can harness that youthful energy we can really create some amazing projects," she said.
Kelly hopes that her projects will continue to be interconnected. YOU Effect aired this past winter on Rogers TV and has an expanded celebrity webseries premiering at the end of this summer. She also hopes to bolster the YOU Effect as a social movement.
"Youth will be able to go there for guidance, support and entertainment, and to learn about role models and their favorite stars," she said. "It's a way to learn from them as mentors, as opposed to focusing on the gossip that news sites usually do."
My Clean City also continues to be a resource for youth who want to take action and get involved in their communities.
Kelly will also lead a youth tour across the United States and Canada called The Power Of YOUth in the fall.
"That really brings together this concept of entertainment, and celebrating the potential we have as young leaders, but then also giving young people the tools to make it actionable," she said. "That's one thing that's really missing right now. There are a lot of people out there trying to inspire young leaders."
Kelly said that she feels that many people inspire youth, but don't give them the tools and support to make their own change in the world.
"They come out with this passion, but it can fizzle away," she said. "My work is to build those networks and communities and programs that they can then go and continue to fuel that passion and act on their ideas," she said. "That's exciting and definitely something I look forward to."
Her biggest piece of advice was that young people should never underestimate their potential.
"Sometimes what may seem like a small action can actually have the largest affect," she said. "Sometimes we don't know what we're really capable of."
Young people may feel that an hour of their time can't make a difference to a cause, or that they don't have a large enough network of friends to create an impact on social media.
"Don't underestimate your voice," she said. "My entire work is all based on this ripple effect of change, and my mission is empowering the world one heart at a time. I define my success just based on inspiring one person, because you never know what that one person is going to do."
Lastly, she said never to estimate the power than you have.
"Don't judge your impact by your social circle or how popular you are but on your ability to inspire and share your story," she said. "Your story as a young leader is your greatest asset. If you share your passion and engage people in feeling and understanding why you're passionate about something you can really find support in anyone."
Be sure to check out Kelly Lovell's social pages below to learn more about her, and join our community at SweetyHigh.com to tell us about the difference you plan to make in the world!