September 23, 2015
(Photos: Jessica Hiltabidel/Center for Inspired Teaching)
This piece was written by 2015 Inspired Teaching Fellows Allie Morris and Richelle Chapman. Allie and Richelle are completing their residency year with the Inspired Teacher Certification Program, teaching at Capital City Public Charter School and Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, respectively.
Want to change the world?
Sounds like a truly daunting task, right? We were fortunate to be invited to attend the Young Women Empowering Communities: Champions of Change Conference at The White House on Tuesday, September 15th to hear eleven young women speak about how they are working hard in their communities to do just that.
These women, the 2015 Champions of Change, are working on causes across the country and have deeply impacted those around them. Faatimah Knight raises money in her Muslim community in Chicago to help AME Churches in the South recover from arson. Meredith Boyce advocates for more inclusive technology for people across all disability spectrums. Katie Prior organizes fellow trumpet players to honor fallen soldiers by playing taps at military funerals. Marissa Jennings has developed an app that caters directly to young African American women. Each of these determined young activists spoke about finding and following her passion to become a true changemaker.
As we listened to these women speak, it started to make us think about our own commitments to our communities. Are we doing enough? On a small scale? On a large scale?
Thank goodness we found Center for Inspired Teaching and count ourselves part of the Inspired Teacher Certification Program! We have the opportunity to change the world, each day in our classrooms, now and in the future. By inspiring our students, we Inspired Teaching Fellows (and teachers across the country and the world) have the power to influence generations of change. How do we do that? The Champions of Change gave us lots of insight into what makes someone a leader, changemaker, and game changer.
Above all, the Champions pointed to passion as the key to being a changemaker. They encouraged audience members to go out in their communities and try new things, paying particular attention to issues that trigger curiosity, enthusiasm, and even anger. Once we find what we feel passionate about, it’s our duty to find a group of people who feel similarly— or create one if that group doesn’t exist.
One of the Champions, Yecenia, works in her community to help Latino and Latina high schoolers access higher education. When asked what advice she would give to young people looking to follow in her footsteps, she said: “Leaders are people who have strong passion and a strong mission. Go find someone who shares your passion and mission. Use each other to push yourselves. Empower each other to make change.” We feel like we’ve found those people in our 2015 cohort of Inspired Teaching Fellows, and we’re thankful to have the whole Inspired Teaching community as a resource as we all work hard to be the change our students need in schools and classrooms across DC.
Some of the other advice we and all members of the audience received from the Champions includes:
“Find what makes you angry, then find a way to make it personable, humorous, and witty.” -Meredith Boyce
“Part of leadership is failing. And let’s be honest, if you don’t fail you’re not working hard enough. You’re not pushing yourself. Our country is all about looking out for others. That’s what community means.” -Valerie Jarett, Senior Advisor to the President
“When we empower a girl, we change her trajectory, and that of her family and her community. It’s the key to peace and security.” -Tina Tchen
“If you don’t take a risk, you don’t know how far you can go.” -Yesenia Ayala
“Listen to the good ideas when they come.” -Faatimah Knight
“Your time is your most precious gift that you can give. Individual time. You may not see the impact, but the impact is there.” -Serena Auñón, American physician, engineer, and NASA Astronaut
“In our diversity is our greatest power.” -Megan Smith
We loved hearing from all of the Champions, and after learning about their stories, we were truly surprised that we hadn’t heard their names before the conference. One of the panel discussions noted the lack of media coverage on positive role models like these young ladies. We think that everyone should know about them and the great work that they are doing, and we’ll try to remember their words each day in our classrooms— “walk in your purpose and dream big.”
Being an Inspired Teaching Fellow means joining a movement to change the way students are educated. Learn more about the Inspired Teacher Certification Program and our commitment to cultivating changemakers in classrooms, schools, and society.