Wonder about the impact of the Champion role from BOTH perspectives?
Read what Nataya, Mikayla, and Danyelle shared…

Challengers Nataya Price, 18 & Mikayla Purnell, 18
Location: Newark, DE
Learning Journey Title: Cinematography

Why did you want to be a part of GripTape?

I wanted to be a part of GripTape because I strongly agree with the sentiment that we must give youth a platform to pursue their interests regardless of what that interest is. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one of the major academic disciplines to be worth pursuing, either. Also, it was nice to have the $500 to buy the items we needed for a short film project we have wanted to make. We finally had the means to do it because of GripTape.

What’s it like to talk to a Champion in the beginning? 

In the beginning, I felt the need to be super formal, but Ms. Danyelle quickly put me at ease because she was so kind and enthusiastic.

Did anything surprise you about working with a Champion?

Yes, her check-ins demonstrated how effective follow-up conversations are when you are trying to stay on task to accomplish the goals you set. She was like our personal accountability partner.

How is talking to a Champion different than other ways adults and youth interact?

It was different because Ms. Danyelle did not give direct advice like I am used to getting from adults. One of the pros was that I was challenged to do some introspection when trying to solve a problem. This introspection often made me realize that I already had the answers inside of me all along.

Describe a time you felt inspired talking to your Champion.

I felt inspired while talking to our Champion when she told us about how much my partner and I inspired her. This statement may initially sound narcissistic, but on the contrary, I was truly humbled by it. When other people watch you passionately pursue your dreams, they draw inspiration from the passion you display. I was so glad to be an inspiration to a young lady as established and kind as Ms. Danyelle. I figured, “ I must be doing something right!” and I strived to keep on going.

Danyelle Murray, GripTape Champion

Why did you want to be a part of GripTape? 

I was particularly impressed with GripTape’s mission to promote youth agency. I’ve worked in education for almost nine years and have consistently conveyed the value of higher education as THE gateway to opportunity — until I came across GripTape. The combination of their advocacy for young people to be in the driver’s seat of their own learning and my experience in engaging with some phenomenal youth over the years made me 100% supportive of GripTape’s initiative. When young people have opportunities like this, they’re empowered to develop critical life and learner skills that have a direct impact on their everyday lives.

What’s it like to talk to a Challenger in the beginning? 

It’s exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. Exciting because I’m always eager to work with young people outside of an academic-focused environment and witness them in their element. Nerve-wracking because I knew I had to be mindful of checking my #adultprivilege at the door. Since, as Champions, we don’t offer advice — which is almost instinctive for many adults engaging with young people — initially, I kept reminding myself that I had to refrain from making suggestions or influencing the Challenger’s decisions. It took a little practice but was worth it to see how they charted their own paths!

Did anything surprise you about working with a Challenger?

I’ve always known that youth were awesome, but the Challenger-Champion relationship has been so inspirational. Mikayla and Nataya, for example — their topic was cinematography, but it was their vision that intrigued me. These young ladies wanted to “create a visual representation in the form of a short film of what it means to be a nonconformist and embracing yourself in the process.” AMAZING was all I could say after witnessing their journey.

How is talking to a Challenger different than other ways adults and youth interact?

I’ve learned about so many different topics in such a short amount of time from each one of my Challengers. It’s definitely an enlightening experience. Yet our role is more than simply learning new subject matter; being a Champion is about witnessing a Challenger’s ability to define a vision, set goals, and execute plans. It’s humbling when you’re unable to do what you’d naturally want to do — and that’s give advice. With patience, a listening ear, and genuine encouragement, you’ll be able to witness first-hand how youth build confidence in themselves and their ability to lead.

Describe a time you felt inspired talking to your Challenger.  

I am inspired each time I connect with Mikayla and Nataya. As women of color who strive to live in our truth everyday within a society filled with images and messages that can be potentially destructive, they remain steadfast in who they are and want to use their new cinematography skills and knowledge to creatively share the message of nonconformity with others. Many adults believe that teenagers are too young or lack the wisdom to be active contributors to their communities and larger society, but working with Challengers like Mikayla and Nataya has proven how wrong that mindset is.

Got five hours to spare this summer?
Become a GripTape Champion and provide virtual support to a youth Challenger as he/she pursues a learning project and goals. It’s a five-hour commitment over 12 weeks. You can read more about GripTape at our website. The deadline to sign up to volunteer for our summer cycle May 31.

Please share the GripTape Learning Challenge opportunity with 15–19 year old youth who want to pursue a topic they’re passionate about! Applications for our summer Challenge will be open from May 4 to June 3. We can’t wait to see what the next group of young people wants to learn!

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About GripTape

Grip tape is an anti-slip adhesive used by skateboarders to anchor themselves to their board so they can take control of where they want to go and how they want to get there. GripTape, the organization, gives young people the traction they need to seize control of their own learning, choose their purposes, and achieve their full potential. GripTape is an initiative of the America Achieves accelerator. Learn more at GripTape.org.