Chronicling the causes and accomplishments of emerging leaders.

Chris Golden: He’s a natural

In Features on December 9, 2010 at 6:27 am

Chris Golden

Chris Golden

by Angela Hopp

Just about every semester that I taught journalism at the University of Houston, I managed to have at least one student who, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was a better writer than I’d ever be.  I call students like that “The Naturals.” Sometimes it was almost laughable that they had to take my class as part of the degree plan. But I always felt like I was better for it.

I imagine that’s how the professors at American University must feel about working with senior Chris Golden: better for it. Even before I talked to him, I knew from my research into his activities that the learning curve, for me, was going to be quite steep.

Golden, a student at AU’s School of Public Affairs, co-founded with Georgetown University student Nick Troiano to connect young Americans involved in service and to demonstrate and grow the impact of their causes.

“Our theory of change is that, by hearing one person’s story, someone else who might be wanting to become involved — but unsure if they will actually be able to have an impact — will be inspired by the story of their peers and decide to also join the cause. And social media presents possibilities to facilitate this like never before,” Golden says.

Essentially an aggregator, the Web site’s effectiveness and success will rely largely on its users’ multimedia and social media habits. But Golden is confident, and probably rightly so, that he can count on the Millennials for content.

“We know that they’re sharing some of their stories on Facebook right now. We know that they’re putting YouTube videos up and Flickr pictures,” he says. “It’s just how our generation, the Millennial generation, is communicating and sharing stories. But what kind of happens is they get lost — if you want to call it an echo chamber — alongside their pictures and stories of family vacations or the party they went to last week, and really, you don’t have the full story.”

That’s where comes in. Using tagging, and a bunch of other techie stuff I don’t understand, it’ll pull together users’ stories, photos, videos, etc., and connect users with others who are equally driven.

“It’s one thing to throw a number, a percentage, out there. It’s another thing to show a blog post, a video,” Golden explains.

The site, at its first stage, will target those involved in some of the major service organizations. But Golden’s not counting out growing it to include the weekend-volunteer types.

“Our audience here is young Americans in Americorps, City Year, etc. That number’s going to grow over the next five years to 250,000 as the Serve America Act, which Congress passed this year, becomes fully implemented,” he says.

Now, I don’t know all that much about social media or volunteerism. (Keep an eye out for a future post on the ironies of me even having this blog.) But, I do know about ambition and drive. And Golden has both.

He’s rehearsed, and that’s a good thing when you’re trying to do something of such magnitude; and he’s a doer, which leads me to believe this initiative of his is going to be bigger than even he expected.

Related links:

  • City Year D.C. Corps members worked on Make a Difference Day last month at Garfield Elementary School in southeast D.C. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended, and Golden interviewed him. Watch the video:

Do you know someone amazing who should be featured? Your story ideas are welcome. Contact me at

Originally published by Washington Times Communities Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009


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