McAllen ISD students were spread all over the gym floor at McAllen High. Ranging from elementary school age to high school age, they brandished sharpies and signed each other’s t-shirts with goodwill messages.

It is simple gestures like these from which Choose 2 Matter was born and McAllen ISD has earned the attention of national leaders in this phenomenon.

The founder of the Choose 2 Matter movement visited McAllen ISD and trained students from elementary, middle school and high school about becoming Choose 2 Matter Ambassadors.

“We’re going to have the most epic day,” Angela Maiers, the movement’s founder, said to a gym full of eager, excited students.

Hands start to point straight up as McAllen High teacher Jennifer Rodriguez asked “are you ready to change the world?” Rodriguez helped the movement catch fire at her campus in 2015. Her students later presented on it to McAllen Mayor Jim Darling.

“Choose 2 Matter exists to move change forward,” Maiers explained. “The fiercest, the bravest, the most visionary leaders moving change forward are young people. I’m here in McAllen, specifically, because 29 young people reached out to me on Twitter … and said ‘we want to matter. Can we be your ambassadors?”

These ambassadors will now take the campaign to their campuses. Maiers calls them “warriors of hope for this cause.”

According to the Choose 2 Matter website, Choose 2 Matter is a universal movement that challenges us to make “mattering” a way of life. When people accept that they matter and that their actions count; lives and learning change and our world changes.

“Mattering is not an event or an activity but an essential need,” Maiers said. “To be seen. To be heard. To be valued. To know you are essential to something bigger than yourself.”

At the end of the training, students shared what they had learned and their gratitude.

“You’ve really helped me find a part of myself,” one male student said.

“It takes a big heart to shape little minds,” a female student added.

McAllen High Principal Albert Canales heard about Choose 2 Matter in May 2015 and Ms. Rodriguez introduced Choose 2 Matter to her students in the fall of that year where it was swiftly embraced by the student body.

Students wrote quick notes on cards on why someone matters and handed the card to the person. They wrote about other individuals that matter to them on a large banner hung in the school.

They produced a Storify of Tweets telling how they stepped into their role as Choose 2 Matter Ambassadors and sharing the message throughout the community.

The students were so enthusiastic that it prompted Maiers to visit McAllen High in December 2015. Later, Mayor Darling visited the campus to learn about it. He declared McAllen a city in which “Everyone Matters” at his annual State of the City address in spring 2016.

“I’m excited to see what we do next,” Ms. Rodriguez said.