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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