This Sunday, July 8th, is National Video Game Day. On the face of it, a holiday dedicated to celebrating video games might seem like a parent’s worst nightmare. But some organizations have found ways to harness the power of video games, Second Life and social media to foster positive change in kids, teens, and the world.

Today we’re checking out one of those orgs: Global Kids. Founded in 1989, Global Kids works to inspire underserved youth to achieve academic excellence, become global leaders, and take action on the issues facing their communities. They accomplish this work in many different ways. But one of their most unusual initiatives, the Online Leadership Program, teaches teens to build online video games and virtual worlds that deal with domestic and global issues – everything from poverty to disaster relief – and interact with a community of other teens around the world via social media.

Meanwhile, Global Kids’ Let’s Talk Sustainability program uses Second Life and virtual reality as a platform for engaging students in youth-led education around science and the environment. Global Kids also helped to found Games for Change festival – an annual event (which just had its 9th season) that celebrates the creation of social impact games, which foster both humanitarian and education.

“What inspires me most about the youth I work with in our gaming programs is how committed they are to seeing beyond what games currently do, to envisioning what they CAN do,” said Barry Joseph, who directs Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program. “Whether they become game designers, educators who use games, or parents who one day game with their kids, I am confident they will use the leadership skills they learn at Global Kids to make the world a better place.”

Learn more about Global Kids’ work and how you can get involved here.

Bonus Round:
-Check out this recent interview with new media theorist (and former Global Kids staffer) Rafi Santo here.
-Read about how Joseph has helped to pioneer games-based learning in the Jewish community here.