Meet other 2021 honorees: Mekhi Addison, Kynise Dixon, Daniela Palacios, and Renée Onque.
**At time of application, senior at Wardlaw-Hartridge School.
Through my experiences with The Gem Project and the Wardlaw-Hartridge School, I have had ample opportunities to participate in several programs that embody being an agent of change. As a high school fellow of The Gem Project, I have aided in facilitating change in policies for students of color to provide them with a more equitable education in high school. I have participated in several workshops that have taught me how to advocate for change in such ways that will benefit my community. I have mobilized with groups of fellows and students to spread our research. This was achieved through in-person encounters, social media, and surveys. With these groups, I have also compiled a policy brief regarding student-voice in public schools, as well as an issue brief dedicated to uncovering the limiting policies that have affected students of color during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Lastly, I have presented my work to the masses by hosting forums, rallies, and workshops to speak on my findings. Namely, the “Dismantling Structural Racism Across Education, Justice, and Health” Virtual Youth Rally.
I have also participated in the “Black Leaders in Health and Wellness” and the “Our Youth: Not Only Our Future But Our Now!” Speaker Series with Roots and Bridges as a student host. In one series, I asked special guests questions regarding their careers in Public Health and gave insight into being a student advocate who wishes to pursue this field. With other student speakers, I expressed the changes I would like to see in the world as I grow older. Art has also been a component of being an agent of change, as I have learned how to express the struggles and excellence of African Americans through Afrofuturism. I have created storylines for Animodules that incorporated my research on student-voice with the Barat Foundation, while also aiding in the painting of Animodules during the Black Lives Matter Movement of summer 2020.
With the Wardlaw-Hartridge School, I have embodied being an agent of change by involving myself in beach clean-ups to limit the amount of waste brought into the ocean and in food donations to diminish the hunger of those who are less fortunate. I have also taken part in a symposium and Black Student Alliance. The Wardlaw-Hartridge School’s 2021 Symposium focused on race, identity, and inclusion. It displayed how people of color are ostracized in society and how we can open ourselves to new perspectives that help diminish biases against one another. I aided in the logo’s design and offered insight into being a black student at Wardlaw. The mission of the Black Student Alliance is to create a safe and comfortable environment for African American students who attend the Upper School. Being the minority group within the school, we share our experiences and suggest new, inclusive policies to be brought to the head of the school.
In higher education, I plan to strengthen my skills in public speaking and assertiveness. I feel as though I have strong leadership skills and bring forth innovative ideas. I can speak to groups when prompted. Though at times, I may present doubtfulness in myself and my work. I may not share my ideas or continue to push them if they are not immediately accepted. I may also have fears and reservations about public speaking. Through the work that I have already done, I have received many opportunities to practice these skills. In my higher education, I want to take such leadership roles with complete confidence and firmly establish my ideas and goals with groups that I will be collaborating with in the future. In College, I plan to major in Public Health. The policy section of this major requires these skills to initiate change and spread it to the masses, which I believe will be strengthened in the upcoming years. I also plan to strengthen my skills when doing group work. In school, I have always preferred working on my own. I have felt as though work would be done more efficiently by myself. Though, I have realized that not everything can be done on my own, and that collaboration has many benefits in the workforce, including heightened communication skills. As well as gathering new ideas from others. In my higher education, I plan to strengthen my abilities to work with others effectively to reach a common goal.
Overall, garnering opportunities to become an agent of change has only increased my determination to strive for more and reach my fullest potential. I have realized that my goals are oriented around my community and helping the people that I coincide with. I now understand that I can change the injustices I recognize no matter my age and engage others to support such efforts. With the skills that I have gained from The Gem Project and my high school, along with the skills that I will gain in higher education, I am confident that I can continue to be a successful agent of change.