Liz Rusch is an optimist. How did she get that way? Hanging around with kids.
Rusch, who grew up in Connecticut, majored in economics at Duke, but she always planned on a career as a writer. "My logic for my major was that I love reading and writing and knew I would always do it, so I should major in something that I knew nothing about. I picked economics, and you learn a certain way of thinking, a certain approach to analysis, that has probably been helpful in my writing."
Writing became her passion, and her career. Right after graduating, she landed a job at Teacher Magazine in Washington, where she eventually became managing editor. In 2002, Rusch published Generation Fix: Young Ideas for a Better World (Beyond Words Publishing). The book, which tells the stories of dozens of young people who have made real contributions to solving serious world problems, went back for a second printing last fall.
"I called my book Generation Fix because in the process of interviewing kids about the most challenging problems facing our world--problems with the environment, with violence, with education, with hunger, with world peace--I discovered that they not only have ideas for solutions, but also the energy to make them happen," Rusch says. "There is a huge untapped resource in the young people of this country. Every kid I spoke to had an idea to do something in their home, their neighborhood, or their school--and those ideas often could expand into the larger world."
"Kids today are just as idealistic as the Sixties generation, but they're much better informed," she continues. "They have better access to information, which can help them create and pursue ideas and solutions."
Rusch cites "eco-inventor" Ann Lai, profiled in the book. As a high-school freshman worried about acid rain, Lai surfed the Web and scoured scientific journals looking for a way to build a sulfur-dioxide emissions sensor. She finally contacted scientists at Case Western Reserve University, near her home in Ohio, and, with their guidance over the next three years, successfully developed and applied for a patent for the first electrochemical microsensor to measure the damaging emissions.
"Adults tend to have the feeling that problems are spiraling out of control. But the kids I talked to know that ideas for change can blossom into something real," says Rusch.
Now a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon, she has published more than 100 articles in national magazines on education and child development. "But just recently I have been focusing on writing for children, as well as about them," she says.
Rusch is the mother of two: son Codi, four, and daughter Izzi, two. She's currently at work on a nonfiction children's book about Mount St. Helens for Sasquatch Books, a regional publisher. She says she loves freelancing. "The world is your oyster. You can write about any idea and any passion."
Her passions still include talking to young people. Through live chats and postings on www.generationfix.com, she continues to collect stories of kids who are trying to change the world--and often succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.
"I think we should spend a little more time listening to kids' ideas," says Rusch. "We need to ask them serious questions about the world. Adults or parents who read my book often ask, 'But how did you get kids to talk?' You have to ask a real question, and then you have to listen. Do it, and I think you will be surprised."
Elizabeth Rusch '88
January 31, 2006