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The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

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Updated: 2 hours 41 sec ago

Happy Accident: How A Makeup Disaster Launched One Teen’s Business Career

December 13, 2017 - 12:27pm

Back in high school, Jasmine Adams developed a little trick while she was doing her makeup. Little did she know it would lead her to win a national contest for young entrepreneurs.

“I grew up as a swimmer and I used to just have a lot of swimsuits laying around my room,” Adams said. “So when I used to do my makeup every morning, I would mess it up sometimes, and one day the swimsuit just happened to be the closest thing lying there. So I just grabbed it and tried to wipe off my hands on it and then wipe off the makeup and it worked really well.”

Adams continued to use her swimsuits to fix her cosmetic mishaps until she finally decided to cut up her older ones and stitch them together into pocket-sized pieces. This is the foundation of her business, Smudgies: double-sided cloths made from swimsuit-like material.

But a business takes more than an idea: it takes a plan. That’s what Adams had to come up with as part of what she thought was an ordinary entrepreneurship class. As it turns out, the class was sponsored by NFTE, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. In a class of five girls and three boys, Adams created that business plan and a presentation she would go on to present in front of investors at a local college.

“I was not happy at all about it,” Adams said. “I wanted to drop the class because I hated public speaking and it just didn’t sound like something that I wanted to do at all. [But] once I started going to the competitions, I found out that I actually kind of enjoyed it. It gave me a lot more confidence; it made me really want to pursue the business a lot more.”

Before she knew it, Adams placed first at the regional competition and second in the state, both taking place at the College of Charleston. This led to an invitation to nationals where she presented Smudgies.

After going for several rounds of presentations and questioning, she won the $10,000 first place prize.

“[I was] really shocked, honestly,” Adams said. “Throughout the day, it was just running through my head, like ‘I can’t believe that this has all happened.’ It was pretty overwhelming actually. But I was just really grateful for NFTE and for all the opportunities and for all the people who helped me get there.”

Adams now attends the University of Dallas where she plans on majoring in business and English alongside improving her startup company. Moving away from her home in Charleston, South Carolina, Adams connected with Angel Factory in Dallas to manufacture Smudgies on a larger scale and ship them off nationwide.

It’s a far cry from how she started: with only an old sewing machine and a pile of worn swimsuits.

“The hardest part [about making them] was using the sewing machine at home. It was just my parents old sewing machine they’ve had for decades,” Adams said. “So it would break every five that I would try and make.”

While those days are behind her, Adams still packages the Smudgies herself. Things have changed a bit since she switched to mass production: there are fewer styles than when she was still making them at home, but she is happy with the quality of the product.

In the next few years, Adams plans on recruiting other students to help package and get more of her designs into the factory production. She hopes to expand the product line and find other uses for the fabric, eventually selling the company at some point, thinking it may catch the eye of makeup companies.

If nothing else, the journey has been educational.

“Having a business has actually been really helpful because when I take my business classes like accounting, I have really good real-world examples that I can apply and I can definitely then use what I’m learning in my classes to help me run the business.”

Not bad for an idea that started with a makeup mishap.

Categories: Blog

Alabama Election By The Numbers: Black Voters Elected Doug Jones

December 13, 2017 - 10:26am

Starting your morning out with math doesn’t necessarily sound very sexy. But today is a good one to make an exception. In yesterday’s special election to replace Jeff Session’s Senate seat, Alabama voters elected Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore (who has been accused of sexual misconduct with underage girls) — a stunning upset considering Alabama hasn’t had a Democratic senator since 1992 (and even that guy eventually switched parties and became a Republican).

So um… what happened? Did Alabama voters collectively say “Nah” to Moore and the horse he (literally) rode in on? Not so much.

TAKEAWAY #1: Black voters showed up, mostly voted Democrat.

According to The Washington Post’s exit polls, Alabama voters’ choice of candidate largely correlated with their race. A majority of white voters (68%) choose Moore versus Jones (30%). In comparison, 98 percent of black voters went with Jones.


TAKEAWAY #2: What did women want? Depended on their race.

And in case you’re interested in intersectionality check out these numbers: both white women (63%) and white men (72%) mostly voted for Moore. Black women, on the other hand, overwhelmingly voted for Democrat Doug Jones (98%), a higher percentage than even black men (93%), according to The Washington Post’s exit polls.


TAKEAWAY #3: Most young voters chose Jones

Looking to your fellow millennial and Gen Z voters? Sixty percent of Alabama voters 18 to 29 voted for Jones. But does that mean red states will gradually turn blue over time, or will young progressives turn conservative as they age? Only time will tell.


TAKEAWAY #4: White voters are willing to overlook political scandal for other factors.

So how do we process these election results? Some are saying it’s a warning sign for Republicans, or creepy dudes, or both. But before we get ahead of ourselves, there’s one more set of numbers that it’s worth looking long and hard at from the Alabama election. Despite the fact that The Washington Post’s exit polls found that most women (57%) and nearly half of white men (42%) believed Moore’s accusers were telling the truth, a majority of white people still voted for him. To answer the question, “But whyyyyyyyy?” it may be telling to look at the issues. Doug Jones holds a pro-abortion rights stance, while Moore is staunchly anti-abortion rights. Alabama is also a deeply Republican state. So before you start making too many assumptions about what Alabama’s special election will mean for the next political cycle, keep your eyes glued to the numbers.


Categories: Blog

Election Day: Alabama Teens Weigh In On Roy Moore And Senate Race

December 12, 2017 - 3:37pm

Sexual assault and harassment have been the main issue surrounding the Alabama Senate race. But what does this election mean for young people in Alabama? Youth Radio asked some teens from Alabama to weigh in on the issues that matter most to them in this election. 

The quotes are edited for length and clarity. 

Photo Courtesy of Madeline Shackelford

Madeline Schakelford, 17

As a 17-year-old black, queer, woman, I do not think that [candidate] Roy Moore has my best interests in mind. I do not think that he has Alabama’s or even the south’s best interests in mind. I don’t believe a candidate deserves to make laws if he can’t even follow ones that are as important as the legal age of consent. The fact that Roy Moore was able to keep campaigning after multiple allegations of sexual assault is simply despicable.

I do believe that [candidate] Doug Jones has my best interests in mind. [I believe he will address] the unequal access to education in Alabama. And as a student in public education, I do not have an AP government text book. Sometimes we don’t even have qualified teachers, or bathroom doors in the school restrooms. We don’t have access to the same quality of education of those who live in majority white school districts, and I feel that is a problem that needs to be addressed. We, as a state, have created a system where it is perfectly legal to have unequal access to education without explicitly stating in our constitution that “black people should get worse education than white people do.”

There are issues that haven’t made it to the light because of the Roy Moore scandal. As far as I have seen, neither candidate has mentioned the fact that Alabama is still one of the most obese states in the country, and several cities in the state are food deserts. I haven’t heard anyone talk about providing better public transportation either. 




Photo Courtesy of C. Audrey Harper

C. Audrey Harper, 18 

I have been anticipating this election as this will be the first one I am able to vote in.

I have vehemently disliked Roy Moore since 2016 when [as a judge] he would not allow same-sex couples to be married. When I learned he was running for Senate, I didn’t think he would win the primary. After the sexual assault allegations arose, I was horrified.Those girls were my age. The youngest girl was 14. When I was 14 I was just out of middle school. To even think about a 30-year-old man making advances on me makes me sick.

I see Roy Moore as the antithesis of every value that Alabamians hold, yet people continue to support him. I want people to see the state that has given me everything that I hold dear. Seeing people support Moore has also made me acknowledge that while Alabama is beautiful, it can be so terribly toxic. There are people believe the women who are accusing Roy Moore but are still voting for him. What kind of message are we giving to young women if an accused sexual predator wins this election? A lot of people said they would not be voting because they “can’t vote for a child molester, but also can’t vote for a Democrat,” but there are still other things to vote on besides the Senate election.

I also care about education and healthcare – something that Alabama is lacking in. A lot of Alabama is rural, and many of the people living in these areas do not have proper access to healthcare services and well-funded school systems. I was lucky enough to grow up in a more affluent community in Alabama, but just a few minutes south of me there are people who do not have quality textbooks and teachers and have to drive long ways to see a doctor. Some of Alabama’s counties have among the lowest life expectancies in the country. How can we expect to prosper as a state if we can’t even give adequate health care or properly educate our citizens? In my city, there is a vote on a tax renewal for my school system which gives us a lot of funding. Alabamians immediately object when the word “tax” is ever said (hence our low property taxes, hence our poorly funded schools!) .

Photo Courtesy of Tyler Brown

Tyler Brown, 16

This race, involving a tarnished Republican candidate, gives Democrats an opportunity to win a Senate seat in Alabama. This would be unusual in today’s political climate. As I look forward to my future post-graduation, economic stability is important issue to me. I tend to favor the big business policies of a Republican candidate. I am also concerned with the cost of healthcare and maintaining insurance coverage. However, because this election is for the remaining term of former Senator Jeff Sessions, it is unlikely that the election of either candidate will have a long lasting impact.







Special thanks to the Alabama Youth Alliance and YouthServe for this coverage. 

Categories: Blog

For The Love Of The Game (And My Dad)

December 8, 2017 - 2:55pm

My dad and I both love baseball. But for him it’s just a game. For me, it’s about spending time together.

As a kid, I was daddy’s little girl. He introduced me to new music. We went to the movies together. And–my very favorite–he took me to baseball games.

Even though I’m a teenager now–we both still enjoy cheering for the Giants. On game days, my dad, my brother and I often gather on the couch in the living room. When my dad and I are bonding over the game–which players we love, the way the game is going–I feel really close to him. Which is why it’s so disappointing when my younger brother talks over me and takes up our dad’s attention. I’m not sure my dad even sees this dynamic. To him, we’re just hanging out.

Traditionally, sports are a father son thing. But for me, it’s one of the few times I still get to spend time with my dad. And as I get older, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to do that.

I wish he could see–baseball isn’t just baseball to me. It’s my attempt to reconnect with him.

Categories: Blog

Why I’m Saying “Boy, Bye” To Abusive Artists

December 8, 2017 - 2:21pm

My friends and I were driving through the hills of Grizzly Peak in Berkeley, California, blasting our favorite artists as we zipped past curve after curve. I handed my friend the aux cord, a signal they could pick the next song. Being given the aux cord when riding in the car with friends is synonymous to being given the power. And with great power comes great responsibility.

“Play X”, my friend suggested, referring to popular Soundcloud rapper XXXtentacion.

But I didn’t want to. I knew XXXtentacion had been convicted of domestic abuse and assault multiple times before and it made me uncomfortable to listen to his music knowing my plays were what was filling his bank account. I laughed off the suggestion and played another song off the hip hop charts.

In this time of activism and being “woke”, how do artists like XXX and Kodak Black sit at the top of the chart every week? I’ve noticed that even movements set to free these incarcerated rappers, like #FreeX, have skyrocketed them to popularity amongst youth listeners who see their conviction for domestic abuse or rape as mere roadblocks in the way of their music career. According to DJBooth, after #FreeKodak started trending across social media sites, Kodak’s “Tunnel Vision” jumped 19 spots, earning him the first top ten hit of his career.

My friends who still listen to these artists argue that they can separate the music from the artist. They brought up directors like Woody Allen, or producer Harvey Weinstein, both of whom have faced sexual assault allegations. Does that mean we never watch another movie produced by the Weinstein company again?

Contrary to popular opinion, I think we should leave these artists behind.

Every time we listen or watch something produced by a rapist, not only are we adding to their wealth, we are normalizing rape and domestic abuse. By streaming Kodak Black or XXX, we are allowing their talent to excuse their behavior. This leads to rape culture, which is built on normalization of rape and violence.

Even though I don’t think quitting listening to Kodak or XXX will magically cure our society from rape, it’s a step in the right direction. I want Hollywood and the music industry to send the message that alleged rapists like Casey Affleck or R. Kelly aren’t welcome no matter what level of talent they have. This can be as simple as skipping a song on a playlist and explaining your reasoning behind it.

So next time you get control of the aux with friends, know it’s not just about the music. You have a chance to make change and hold media makers accountable.

Categories: Blog

Gen Z Fashion: From YouTube To Your Closet

December 5, 2017 - 1:30pm
Erica Louie, a YouTuber who goes by Miss Louie, left her corporate job to be a full-time YouTube fashion vlogger. (Photo credit: Denise Tejada.)

I used to be addicted to an internet phenomenon called haul videos.

It sounds kind of weird. But I’ll literally watch someone sitting in their room, trying on clothes and talking about how they fit.

“So I’ll literally turn on both cameras, stand in front of the white background, model clothes, and then change out and then just do it over and over again for hours,” said Erica Louie, a YouTuber who goes by Miss Louie.

A corner of Louie’s Santa Clara, CA living room has been converted into a film set. She has a white floor-to-ceiling backdrop and a rack full of clothes with tags still on them. Louie’s been working on these videos for six years. She has a quarter-million followers.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I found my group. I found my niche,’ whether it’s young women entering college trying to get internships or women trying to get their first job,” said Louie.

Earlier this year, Louie left her corporate job at Dell to grow her YouTube channel, and her decision is paying off. Now she says she is earning a six-figure income, but it’s not easy money. Louie puts in 50 to 60 hours a week on her videos.

So how exactly does she make money?

Well, let’s say you like the jacket she’s wearing in a video. You can click on a link in the video description, which directs you to the retailer’s site. For every jacket that’s sold, Louie gets a percentage from the cart total. And that link is accessible even years after the video is posted. So, for instance, today Louie could be making money from a link she posted five years ago.

Ilse Metchek, head of the California Fashion Association, calls people like Erica Louie “influencers.” She believes they are changing how the fashion industry works

“Influencers are the new Vogue,” said Metchek. “Influencers get front row seats at the fashion shows. They get clothes sent to them daily. ‘Here! free! Please wear this.’ This is a business now.”

Erica Louie’s business model is surprisingly personalized. She buys what she likes for her wardrobe–with her own money–and then approaches brands, instead of the other way around. So she’s not tied to any one label.

That freedom and customization is refreshing to Gen Zers like me. Unlike older generations, we aren’t loyal to single brands. Plus, we are more interested in connecting with real people than with companies.

My friend Trinity Balla’s favorite haul videos are from YouTubers Sophia and Cinzia. She asked me to watch their haul from a shopping trip in London.

Part of the appeal of Sofia and Cinzia? We see ourselves in them. “They’re just three years older than us,” said Balla. “And they don’t have a bunch of money, like, they work.”

Sofia and Cinzia feel genuine. They are buying things they like for themselves. It’s a level of customization and a feeling of authenticity that speaks to us. Metchek says it’s going to be hard for retailers to keep up, since we’re so individualized in our tastes.

“You will not all have the same hairdo, and you will not all be wearing torn jeans, and you will not all be wearing the same footwear. And you may not even use the same cosmetics,” she told me. 

Maybe Metchek has a point. I know this sounds nuts, but over the course of reporting this story, I even I found myself getting bored of YouTube haul videos. What’s next? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll even go to the mall?

This story is part of a special Youth Radio series Generation Z produced with NPR’s Sonari Glinton.

Categories: Blog

First Job? Here’s What You Should Know About Sexual Harassment

December 5, 2017 - 11:17am
Teens girls from Mount Diablo High School, listening to recruiters talk about trades in December 2015

As sexual harassment revelations break out across the country, #MeToo continues to be in the headlines. But what’s at stake for young women entering the workplace? Youth Radio’s Nina Roehl spoke with Malinda Tuazon, an investigator at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which is the federal agency that enforces the laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace, about advice she has for young women.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Nina Roehl: Legally, how are people protected against sexual harassment in the workplace?

Malinda Tuazon: There is a federal set of laws that says that it’s illegal to subject someone to conduct that is unwanted, such as lewd comments, graffiti, and things like that in the workplace. So, under federal law in California you have up to 300 days to file a charge of discrimination. Under the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, you have up to one year to file a charge of discrimination. For youth under 18 who have been harassed, they have until one year after they turn 18 to file a charge. So for example, if you’re harassed at age 15 in the workplace you have up until your 19th birthday to file a charge of discrimination with the state.


NR: I’m a young woman at one of my first jobs here at Youth Radio, and I’m going to be entering the workforce, so what advice do you have for young women who may be sexually harassed at work?

MT: One of the things that I always recommend to people is if you feel like you’re being harassed or in any other way discriminated against, take really good notes and keep a journal of what happens. This can be what someone says to you, what day it was, what time it was, and if there were any witnesses. 

I think it’s really important for people to understand that a person does not have to be a victim of sexual harassment themselves to report it or even do something about it. [It’s important to] do something to either stop it or engage the person who’s being subjected to it. Ask, “Is there something you would like me to do to help you?” We always recommend if you’re going to be an active bystander, you should get the consent of the person who has been the victim of sexual harassment before you talk with management or Human Resources. Otherwise,  encourage the person to talk with H.R. management themselves.  But I always recommend young people to report these incidents– if not just for themselves, but to try and prevent it from happening to other people in the future.


NR: Personally, I think it’s really inspiring to see all these people step forward using #MeToo, but are there consequences or retaliations when coming forward in such a public way?

MT: I can certainly imagine the social consequences of people coming forward and in a public way. In the workplace, people who complain about sexual harassment get protected from retaliation. That’s not to say that they won’t be retaliated against but if they are, they can file to start an investigation. Depending on how strong the evidence is that links the complaints to the action, then it’s likely that we would find retaliation, discrimination, and a violation of the laws that we enforce.


NR: What is the process like once you come forward with a sexual harassment report? What does it entail?

MT: Under the law, when an employer gets a complaint of sexual harassment, they are required to respond promptly and adequately to ensure that the sexual harassment stops and doesn’t occur again. Oftentimes if you’re going to your employer, they’ll either take the complaint directly or refer you to Human Resources.  

So, sometimes an employer will do an investigation regarding the sexual harassment, or they will just interview the person who was harassed and maybe the alleged harasser. Sometimes they will issue some discipline or they will just talk to the alleged harasser about their behavior, assuming it will stop from there. If a person wants to come to our agency and file a charge of discrimination, you have to do it within 300 days of the most recent incident of harassment. 


NR: Is there anything else you would like to add?

MT: One of the communities that [the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] is really reaching out to is immigrant communities. In immigrant communities, youth often are the conduit of knowledge and information for their families. So, it’s really important for youth to know about a lot of these laws, because even if they’re not the ones who are being discriminated against or harassed or sexually harassed, one of their parents could be. So, this is great legal information they can bring to their family.

Categories: Blog

Is Gen Z The First Car-Free Generation? Not So Fast, Say Automakers

December 5, 2017 - 5:00am
Image courtesy of Maven

Sheryl Connelly has a crazy job. She’s in Detroit, in charge of looking into the future for Ford Motor Company. And they’re trying to predict how people my age–from Generation Z– will use cars.

“I have two Gen Zers at home,” said Connelly. “So my sixteen-year-old daughter is thrilled, actually. Her car is ready to go. As soon as she has her license, it’s in the driveway. And so she sits in her car and she listens to the radio and she loves her car.”

That’s definitely not me.

“I think it’s context,” said Connelly. “It depends on where you live.” A couple of decades ago, you would not have heard someone from Ford saying that owning a car is about context. Things are definitely changing. My dad is a car guy. He says he  started driving when he was 14. Somehow that was legal. But me–I’m 18 and I don’t want a car. I am from the San Francisco Bay Area. I take buses and trains. I bike, and when I need a car, I use Lyft. Ford’s Connelly says Gen Z is a game changer.

“They don’t really care about ownership. They don’t necessarily see that their vehicle is going to be a status symbol. In fact they’re really savvy customers and can be quite frugal,” said Connelly.

I asked Connelly if it scared Ford that Gen Zers are frugal. “No, I don’t think so at all. We’re ready for you. If you wanna buy a car, we’ve got it for you. If you don’t wanna buy a car, we can still help you there.”

Ford started its own bike sharing service recently. They want to sell to people like me who have no interest in buying a car. The top three automakers in the U.S.–Ford, Fiat Chrysler, and General Motors–say they are no longer just automakers. Every major car company is trying to make a move – whether it’s car-sharing or ride-hailing or self-driving. General Motors has a new car-sharing app that it’s betting billions on called Maven.

“The word means ‘a connoisseur,’ someone who has options and means to make good choices,’” said Peter Kosak, the executive director of urban mobility for Maven. “We needed to create a new brand because this is really about access and not necessarily ownership.”

Kosak says GM’s new car-sharing company was created to target those on the older end of millennials and Gen Z. While my friends and I aren’t really interested in car ownership, we are redefining what it means to travel by car.

Susan Shaheen researches innovative mobility at UC Berkeley.

Susan Shaheen is at UC Berkeley and has been studying ride sharing since the 90’s before it was a real thing. She says this isn’t all bad news for car companies.

“If you are using their mobility services,” said Shaheen, “chances are they’re gonna have a lot of data about your preferences — if you like to rent minivans or mini coopers or convertibles or Teslas. They’re gonna know a lot about where you travel and how you travel. They’re gonna be in a very good position to market to you.”

Even if you haven’t thought about owning a car, you are essentially being placed on the road to ownership. Whether you realize it or not, engaging in these car sharing services is essentially test driving, which is the first step in purchasing a car.

“This is a business opportunity for us,” said Maven’s Kosak. “You’re in that perfect case, and maybe later you will want to own a car.”

So the car industry is hoping that I may want a car in the future, even if it’s not a priority now. If this sounds familiar, think back on all the doom and gloom about millennials not wanting to own cars. 

Last year, the Associated Press reported that millennials are starting to buy cars in big numbers. They just had a late start–mostly because of the Great Recession.

Could the same thing happen for Gen Z? I decided to ask Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Autotrader, if Generation Z might follow in Millennials’ footsteps once they’re turning 30.

“We think that maybe, as Gen Z ages, as you start to think–I know this is hard to think about–but if you decide about getting married and having children you may have one personal vehicle in the household,” said Krebs.

She may be right, but thats not happening for me yet. I’ve always wanted to live in Los Angeles, and I recently got to move down here for college. Before I moved, when I told people that I wouldn’t have a car, they’d say, “Oh, good luck.” I didn’t need luck because I got here and there’s Lyft and Uber, even taxis, and a train that will take me from my dorm to the ocean. 
And right now, for people who are selling cars, I’m a problem. And so is the rest of my generation. I’m 18 years old and I know what I want–at least when it comes to cars. That is what is sending car companies into their own identity crisis.

This story is part of a special Youth Radio series Generation Z produced with NPR’s Sonari Glinton.

Categories: Blog

We Are Generation Z

December 4, 2017 - 12:57pm

Gen Z is the generation that follows millennials – their oldest members are just going into college, and they have tons of buying power. In the billions. NPR’s Sonari Glinton and Youth Radio teamed up to take you inside Gen Z in a series we’re calling We Are Gen Z.

Together we’re exploring the economic power of Gen Z–from their bedroom closets to car showrooms–to see what sets them apart from their predecessors. What we find just might surprise you.

Hear the stories on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered this week:

Gen Z Slang: The Lowdown on Memes, Emojis, GIFs


Robert Fisher explores with NPR’s Sonari Glinton how Gen Zers are redefining language and slang on their own terms.

Aired on NPR’s All Things Considered on Monday December 4, 2017.

Gen Z Fashion: From YouTube To Your Closet Erica Louie, a YouTuber who goes by Miss Louie, left her corporate job to be a full time YouTube fashion vlogger.

Rhea Park looks at how YouTube is influencing the fashion industry. [Audio available Tuesday, December 5.]

Is Gen Z The First Carless Generation? Not So Fast, Say Automakers

Natalie Bettendorf examines just how Detroit automakers are adapting to Gen Z’s ridesharing habits. [Audio available Tuesday, December 5.]

Want more on Gen Z, and how this generation separates itself from the ones that came before it? Youth Radio has been serving up teenagers’ stories for the past 25 years. But what it means to be a teenager — you know, each generation’s music, slang, fashion, and technology — has changed a lot in that time. We’ve dipped into our archives to bring you stories of teenage life across three generations: X, Y and Z. So grab some headphones and prepare yourself for a nostalgia-filled, interactive trip down memory lane. Check out our Gen XYZ interactive here
Categories: Blog

Think Bay Area Teens Are Safe From Prejudice? Think Again

December 4, 2017 - 12:51pm
Photo Courtesy of Senay Alkebu-lan/ Youth Radio

I attend an elite private school in Oakland. It’s like a tiny utopia, within the already liberal bubble of the Bay Area. But recently, my perception of my school community as an accepting, tolerant place, was shaken dramatically.

It started when my best friend and I got selected as advice columnists for our school newspaper. We sent out an online form to the entire campus, soliciting questions for our column. We were asking people to bare their souls, anonymously of course, revealing their innermost thoughts and feelings.

But those unspoken sentiments, well, they weren’t exactly what we expected.

“Why is your nose so big?” “When are you two getting married?” “Why are you perpetually single?”

Knowing the disparaging things that, at least on some level, my peers were thinking about me — it affected me on a daily basis. It may be naive, but before seeing those survey results, I felt protected from this kind of bullying.

I’m still mourning the sense of safety I lost, but a bigger part of me knows it couldn’t last forever. I’ll have to confront these prejudices every day anyways — might as well start training early.



Categories: Blog

I’m A Cheerleader, Here’s Why I Take A Knee

December 1, 2017 - 1:18pm

My friend Teana Boston is kind of a big deal. She’s 16 years old. And she’s already been invited to sing the national anthem at professional sports games. But recently, she wrote her own remix.

For the land of the free… 

Watching this TV, the news feels like a movie.

How can this be?

But I’m not surprised…it happens everyday, lives are taken away.

But there is something about this sight. He crawled in the street, hands spread out like his feet but he was still shot in his heart. And I don’t get that part.

Boston felt compelled to write her own version of the national anthem, one that deals with race.

“I did my research on what I was really singing about, and I have to realize that it’s not the land of the free. So we have to not just say, yeah, freedom, yeah,” she said.

I’m protesting, too. I’m a cheerleader. Every Friday during football season, I’m freezing in my red and black uniform on the sidelines of the games.

Cheerleaders at James Logan High School perform at a football game.
Photo: Pablo De La Hoya/Youth Radio

Boston and I go to the same high school, James Logan in Union City, California. We took the same ethnic studies class—which made us both think hard about American history—through a black lens. We learned about suffering, and that sometimes history isn’t even history. I was 10 when Trayvon Martin was shot, and the man who killed him didn’t even go to jail.

When Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee, a lot of people thought he was being unpatriotic. But for me and the other black cheerleaders on my team, we were inspired. We saw opportunity to call attention to racial injustice. We began taking a knee, too, but the football players remain standing.

A varsity football player, Bud Laimont, told me, “Why do I stand? Because the coaches make us. And I guess it’s like, you’re just supposed to do it.”

“What do you think about the cheerleaders taking a knee?” I asked.

“Do it!” Laimont said.

Doing it is not so easy. When the announcer says it’s time to stand for the national anthem, we kneel.

The James Logan Colts cheerleading squad take a knee during the national anthem before a football game at James Logan high school.
Photo: Pablo De La Hoya/Youth Radio

When we first started doing it, the stadium was shocked.

“They found it as disrespectful. They kind of like side eyed us. But in the end I did what I did because that’s my right,” said my friend Jada McMurry.

It wasn’t just the fans who were upset. We felt the heat, even from the coaches.

“They got mad and said that we can’t be doing that. But I was like I’m still doing it. I don’t care,” McMurry said.

I think us taking a knee came as surprise to people, because a lot of people in the school think of cheerleaders as airheads. They think we’re oblivious to what’s going on in the world. But they’re wrong. I got into cheerleading because I wanted to be a role model at my high school. I didn’t expect it to turn into this very public protest. But the truth is, I experience racism. I don’t want to be treated like a criminal when I walk into a store. I don’t want to worry about my younger brother and his safety. So here was this small thing I could do to call attention to racism, and not let it go by. I questioned how I fit into the school and the sport. I decided to take a knee.


Categories: Blog

The World Through The Eyes Of A Teen Rooftopper

November 30, 2017 - 12:40pm

I packed my worn-out JanSport bag, grabbing only the essentials: water bottle, camera, phone charger, SD card, portable battery, and a cheap fold-up tripod. I put on some clothes that wouldn’t get caught on anything or stand out — where I was going, I didn’t want to attract any attention. I told my dad I was heading to the city to take some photos — not a lie, but not the whole truth. As I took the bus to a bart station near the Oakland airport, passing closed-down liquor stores and empty cars surrounded by shattered glass, my thoughts turned upward, toward the tallest skyscrapers in San Francisco.

My goal, whether it was by elevator or 50 flights of stairs, was to make it to the top without anyone knowing I was ever there.

I was 14 or 15 when I started rooftopping. It’s a form of urbexing, or urban exploring, where you discover the most stunning, vertigo-inducing view — either by sitting on the edge of a skyscraper or climbing up a construction crane. It’s not new, exactly. From parkour to free running, people have been transforming the tops of buildings into private playgrounds for decades. In May, a group of teens made the news for posting Instagram videos of doing somersaults and backflips on a walkway atop the Golden Gate Bridge.

People are drawn to rooftops for various reasons. Some are trying to prove just how unafraid of death they are. Others want to photograph the city in the perfect light. I wanted to capture something that’s both spectacular and fleeting. If all went well, once I got the shot, I disappeared.

I was introduced to rooftopping when I was a sophomore in high school. I was looking at the Instagram feed of a kid known as Zeus, who sat across from me in English class, when I saw a photo of his sneaker-clad feet dangling from the scaffold of a partially constructed building. The streets were reduced to tiny lines of traffic 50 stories below. At first, I thought he was insane. But just looking at the picture gave me a rush. The next time I saw Zeus, I grilled him: Is it safe? How do you get up there? How do you know where to go? Can I come along?

Zeus taught me the ins and outs of rooftopping. Because it’s not legal (you have to trespass), rooftoppers follow a strict set of unwritten guidelines:

Rule No. 1: Leave no trace. If the construction workers or guards see that things have been tampered with or broken, they will increase their security measures, cutting off access to the views.

Rule No. 2: Don’t get caught. If you do, that location will become more difficult to enter for the next rooftopper who comes along.

Rule No. 3: Don’t give away all your secrets. Finding your own path to the top is what makes the journey worthwhile. If newbies can’t figure it out on their own, they shouldn’t be doing it.

Rule No. 4: Don’t go alone. This is probably the most important rule. There are definitely some benefits to rooftopping alone, but it’s a creative activity that works best with two people. If you are alone, who will model in your shots? How will you work through visual concepts and make them better? And who will catch you when you fall?

Zeus and I became friends, conquering rooftop after rooftop together. We only sought out ones that were worth the effort. Rooftops that would give us the best views. Rooftops that brought us closer to the heavens. Hotels, apartments, office towers — usually at least 40 stories high.

I’ve had close calls. If my friends and I felt that security guards or curious bystanders were following us, we would act like we belonged. I once attempted to jump from one part of a roof to another and sprained my ankle (we decided to climb another roof right afterward to make up for it).

Rooftopping was worth all the risks, though. I wasn’t doing well in school, and I didn’t have too many friends. Home life wasn’t much better — my mom had recently moved to a different state. Going up to the rooftops was a break from all that. I’d feel the wind whipping around my body, as if it could blow me away any minute. Through all this, I was introduced to a whole community of rooftoppers, all talented photographers — dozens of teens and adults— who became good friends. We gave the buildings that we conquered or wanted to conquer new names, like “The 50” and “555,” after their number of stories or addresses. It felt like we owned them.

But last year, when I turned 18, I decided to stop rooftopping. Suddenly, the momentary thrill of being somewhere I shouldn’t be held some not-so-fleeting consequences — being charged as an adult for trespassing, for one. Maybe I stopped because I was growing up, too. As a younger teenager, I wanted to stand out and, at the same time, fade into the background. It’s a tension that defined my adolescence, and rooftopping allowed me to do both: I’d secretly make my way to the tops of buildings when no one was looking. Then I’d post my photos for everyone to see.

In one of my favorite photographs, you can see me, a small shadowy figure looking down at the cityscape. The surrounding buildings and I are silhouetted against the greater light. There, but also not.

Categories: Blog

As College Application Deadlines Approach, High School Seniors Stress

November 30, 2017 - 10:37am

With college application deadlines coming up, it’s a stressful time for many college seniors. Youth Radio talked to three graduating seniors, Arnav Gupta, Nina Roehl, and Sierra Fang-Horvath, about their mad sprint to the finish line.

Arnav Gupta: The application process has been pretty stressful so far and has definitely created a lot of points of contention around my family as well.

Nina Roehl: Procrastination was definitely an issue for me because now it’s due in a week and I’m definitely not even close to being done.

Sierra Fang-Horvath: So for me I’m having to juggle the writing, but there’s also getting letters of rec, applying for financial aid. There’s just a ton of stuff and I keep worrying that I’m going to miss something.

AG:  I feel like teachers have not been the kindest in terms of assigning us less work. It’s almost like I’m doing double the amount of work that I would do in any other year. And there’s actually a lot of consequences. So you have to be really, really careful.

NR: I wish there was more support in the classroom of helping with college apps directly.

SFH: I’ve got a handy dandy Google spreadsheet. I have all of the schools I’m applying to, then all their separate components. So I have the main common app essay and I’ve got each school supplemental essays, my scores, financial aid, have I selected my major? And I have all the things I haven’t done and red. And then once I’ve done it I go through and put it in green. And needless to say it’s mostly red.

NR: I keep a planner which is honestly my lifesaver. So I try as much as possible to keep organized.

AG: I have no mode of keeping track of things that are happening. I just kind of try and keep track of things in my own head.

SFH: My parents definitely have a facade of calmness and acceptance. They’re always like, “Sierra, we’ll love you no matter where you get in. We want to sponsor your dream.” But I know. They don’t fool me. They have expectations.

Categories: Blog

How to Pitch: Lessons from Women in Tech

November 29, 2017 - 4:57pm

This fall, I attended the Girls in Tech Amplify Women Pitch competition in San Francisco. As an aspiring founder, I’ve already pitched my own app, Munch, which gamifies healthy eating. I really liked this event because I got to see how women pitch their company’s plan and ideas to a panel in hopes of receiving money and support. While some of the pitches sounded a lot like companies that already exist, the founders found new and different angles that made their products sound unique.

My favorite pitches were Next Play and Scollar Inc .

Next Play: This company uses an artificial intelligent bot named “Ellen” to get to know you, so they can find a mentor you would actually connect with and wouldn’t hate. I have never seen anything like it before. I mean, there’s Siri, but its value is questionable because Siri has little-to-no correlation to your personality. Also, Next Play programmed Ellen to text you and your mentor when you guys haven’t communicated in a while and will suggest times based on both of your calendars! This is one of my favorite pitches because the presenter was very interesting and interactive with the crowd.

Scollar: This company was one of my favorites at the pitch competition because it affects a lot of people and can save a lot of tears. Scollar designed special electrical collars for pets and animals of all kinds. This is no ordinary collar. It has a GPS locator, so if your dog runs away, you will be able to find them without having to put up posters at street corners. Also, the collar vibrates to help train animals not to go where you don’t want them to go. This product would personally help me because my dog Simba is always looking to find a way of taking himself for a walk. One thing I am afraid of is that something might go wrong and the connection might get lost, or the actual collar might malfunction and hurt my doggies.


Here are my four takeaways that I’ll apply to my next pitch:

1. Keep the Audience Awake!  Or… Don’t Be Boring!
The most important thing that I learned is that I can’t be boring — even if I have an amazing idea. How are others going to hear it if they’re sleeping?

2. Make that chart pretty!
As a way of showing market research, all of the presenters shared data. I was a lot more engaged in the chart styles that I have never seen before, versus the usual pie chart.

3. It’s a conversation, not a presentation!
I learned that my next presentation will be a lot more engaging if I talk to the crowd and share some personal stories, rather than stand there and recite numbers and data.

I believe that the lack of confidence made some of the presentations boring and not interactive. I know that I have to come in confident that my company is not some average app or website. I’m pitching gold!

Categories: Blog

A Guide To Alt-Right Memes (And Why You Need To Know Them)

November 29, 2017 - 9:30am


*Shadilay my dudes. Today, I am going to tell you all a fantastic tale, the tale of a small nation’s struggle for survival. The tale of people gathering, hoisting their green flags high over their heads and marching to war against the oppressive normies. If you listen closely you can hear their battle cries of REEEEE!!

*Did that make no sense to you? That’s because I’m speaking with the kinds of insider memes many people associate with the far right.

When you think of “Alt-Right” you probably summon a mental image of a 30-year-old white, straight, man in a white polo shirt and khakis carrying a tiki-torch and typing incoherent, racist and anti-semitic slurs into Twitter from his mother’s basement. This is not necessarily an incorrect assumption–many right-wing extremists have found a home on certain corners of the Internet, such as Reddit and 4chan. But lately, the line between those message boards and the mainstream have become blurry.

For example, in the wake of the recent mass shooting in church shooting in Texas, images of comedian Sam Hyde started circulating as photos of the alleged shooter. It wasn’t unintentional — Hyde’s image is frequently used as bait for gullible news organizations and individuals after a shooting. Those who don’t know their right-wing memes get faked out.

You might disagree with the comments, tactics, or messages of the jokes associated with the alt-right. That’s fair. But it’s not an excuse to be out of the know. When memes pop up in in online political conversations without context or understanding, the result is at best fake news and at worst, irrational fear.

Since political memes are things you will encounter in the current political climate, it is best you have a basic understanding of them. So I’ve put together a guide for those who are less familiar with these politically incorrect memes.

Pepe The Frog

Use: You may recognize this little guy as Pepe The Frog. He was a character on the comic series Boy’s Club, whose dramatic facial expressions made him a popular target for meme adaptation. Before Pepe became co-opted as a political symbol, he floated around the internet for many years, used by celebrities such as Katy Perry and Nikki Minaj As the image became used popular with the “far right” Internet, Pepe’s reputation became increasingly politicized, causing him to be registered in 2016 as a hate symbol by the Anti Defamation League. This caused an uproar on the Internet, and just to spite the “establishment”, conservative, classical liberal, moderate, far right communities online further embraced Pepe as their symbol.

The Nation of Kekistan

Kekistan is used as a running joke in “skeptic” circles on the internet

Kekistan, also known as the nation of “Kek,” is a fictional country where supposedly all of the residents have built a culture centered around memes and laughter.  It’s most often invoked to make fun of people or groups who are critical/sensitive of outsider opinions and would prefer to remain within their own sounding boards.

The nation of Kekistan is the brainchild of YouTuber Sargon Of Akkad, a prominent critic of third wave feminism who rose to prominence during the “Gamergate” scandal. In collaboration with several other “anti SJW” YouTubers, Sargon created Kekistan in order to mock identity politics. Kekistan can be used to make fun of groups/concepts on both the right and left, such as intersectional feminism, and religious conspiracy theorists.


The Term “Red Pill” or “To Be Red Pilled” hearkens back to the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix, it is specifically a reference to the scene where Neo and Morpheus meet face to face for the first time. In this scene, Morpheus makes Neo aware of the fact that he is living in a virtual reality, and offers him the ability to disconnect from that false world and experience actual reality, by choosing to take a red pill.

This phrase is not so much a meme, but a metaphor used by both extremists and moderates alike. It is used to describe a person breaking away from the common ideology around them, usually referring to a progressive, marxist/socialist, or feminist ideology.

“Red Pilled” people see themselves as free from the politically correct, and often identity-based world, which they consider a harmful distortion of reality. Some take this to such an extreme that they despise and mistrust all women, *cough cough* (MGTOW). Many others simply do not like being told how to live their lives by people they consider to be overly-privileged liberal elites.


Sh*tposting has been around forever. It’s politically agnostic (anyone can sh*tpost) but it is a favorite tactic of the alt-right. To sh*tpost is the act of posting a meme to a social media or comment thread, sometimes to derail the conversation, other times to attempt to inject humor into the situation. People who avidly sh*tpost are often called “sh*tlords” or “edgelords.”






A Normie

What’s a normie? You, probably. Like sh*tposter, it’s a term that predates the alt-right. A normie is a term for a mainstream person — meaning, in this case, someone outside the meme-y politically incorrect corners of the Internet. Normies are considered by some to be mainstream, boring, or straight-laced. Or, you could say they are social people who don’t spend all their time on the Internet and actually go outside sometimes.

So before we break back into our respective corners of the Internet, a few brief words about the memes and phrases used by those much-maligned denizens of the politically incorrect Internet. Yes, it’s tempting to dismiss all of them as racist, sexist, antisocial, evil troll-bait. But before we start calling them racist, sexist, homophobes, consider that many of the memes co-opted by the Alt-Right use often were not created by them, in fact, they were created as a response to them. The fact that people like Richard Spencer proudly wear symbols like Pepe the frog is more ironic, than indicative of Pepe being a hate symbol. However, the Alt-Right uses these memes anyway because like all extremist groups, they do not understand humor or irony.

Fighting true racists, sexists, and homophobes is a worthy cause. But the meme makers and users are not necessarily your enemy in this fight, so condemning them or giving into fear-mongering are likely a waste of your time.

So don’t fear the frog, if you get to know him you might even laugh with him.


Categories: Blog

Oakland Schools Find Lead In Their Water

November 28, 2017 - 2:04pm

Several Oakland schools tested with high counts of lead–far above federal health standards.

East Bay Municipal Utility District is is working with OUSD to begin testing all of Oakland’s schools starting November 9.

Categories: Blog

Thanksgiving Overshadowed By College Deadlines

November 22, 2017 - 12:04pm

As a high school senior, I look forward to every break. Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. But I’ve found myself dreading the arrival of this holiday because of college application deadlines.

Thanksgiving has always been the time I spend curled up by the fire with homemade hot chocolate and a good book. But this year relaxation is rare, it seems as though the air is infused with stress and worry. Instead of enjoying the holiday, my college admission and financial aid prospects are a looming stress. My deadlines are hurtling towards me. Will I get in? Will I receive any money from schools? What happens if I get rejected from every single school?

I understand that I might be a little tough on myself. But teenagers are immersed in messages that where you go to college is equivalent to your worth. We’re constantly reminded of how significant a college degree is. And without one, you’re considered a failure.  

While I wish I could enjoy this Thanksgiving, the reality of college makes it difficult. This holiday used to focus on food and family, now, it’s about my future.


Categories: Blog

How to Deal With Your Out of Pocket Family Members This Thanksgiving

November 21, 2017 - 10:00am

Everyone has anxiety about what to do when the people at their Thanksgiving table say uncomfortable or offensive things. Teens deal with that too. Youth Radio asked three teens how adults misbehave at their tables and how they deal.

Robert Medina Fisher – More then half of the people that normally sit at my dinner table are homophobic, which is a problem because I’m gay. Before I came out to my family my aunt was like, “Why would we even want to support gay marriage? It doesn’t matter anyway, they’re all going to hell.” And then I couldn’t really say anything because I hadn’t come out at the time. And so then the following year I did end up coming out. And now I probably would address it.

Malia Disney – I made a kind of off-the-cuff comment about “you can’t just ban Mexicans.” My uncle’s girlfriend quickly responded. “Well, they’re bringing over their rapists.” And I was like wait I’m talking politics and I feel like there’s no way this is going to end well.

Charlie Stuip – I don’t have any necessarily blatantly racist or bigoted family members. They can say some definitely out-of-pocket stuff. If my grandpa goes on his long rant about why we have to defeat capitalism I just generally try and interrupt him and I’m like “Well, what do you do about it?”

MD – When I have a family member say something really out-of-pocket. I typically don’t respond. It’s just not worth it to get into the fight because I have to rely on my family to kind of pay for my education.

CS – Whenever I’m at a gathering that I don’t want to be at I just remember, I never eat this well when I’m by myself because I can only cook boxed mac and cheese.

RMF- Make sure you have your person with you. Then you can look at each other and talk to each other and you can be like, “Did this person really just say this?”

MD – Weigh the pros and cons. What can I get out of telling you off and what can I lose? If you’ve got nothing to lose just make sure you have your car keys or bus ticket in-hand and go for it.


Categories: Blog

On A Mission For Water From Coast To Coast

November 20, 2017 - 12:37pm
Scotty Parker (third from left), starts his ride from coast to coast to raise money for Water Mission in Santa Monica, CA. (Courtesy: Scotty Parker)

For a lot of teens, summer is the chance for the big vacation for the year. This summer Scotty Parker took that opportunity and gave it a twist: riding his bicycle from coast to cast in order to raise money and awareness for the Water Mission, a Christian charity which leverages their expertise in environmental engineering to bring clean water to developing nations and disaster zones.

We asked Scotty to share his journey across the nation with us, in pictures and his own words.

We started our 3300-mile ride for clean water and hope June 3rd at the Santa Monica Pier in California.  I was so happy 4 friends and mentors believed in the ride for water and wanted to make a difference too that they gave up their summer and rode too.

My sisters and parents did so much to help me get ready for this day and were giving up their summer too. We had just flown in a plane across the country now we were going to pedal back home.  It was mind-blowing. There were so many emotions. I was so happy and nervous. But I was mostly excited about the journey ahead with my team and the lives that would be changed because of this ride.

I can’t describe the feeling I had in this picture. According to our map this was the biggest climb we were going to have.  We had a lot of tough climbs and the heat was brutal.  This was toward the beginning of our ride and I had to really dig deep to not quit.  I relied heavily on my faith and I knew that no matter what I could get up this mountain and kept saying to myself Phil 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  This was in Arizona.  On the way up this mountain was this really cool place called Oatman.  There were wild burros that wandered the streets and even took stuff out our pockets of our riding jerseys. Kinda cool how one of the hardest days also had one of the coolest experiences.  When we got home we named our new dog after that town…Oatman.


One of the best parts about the ride for water was the people we met.  You know every day you  hear something negative. People always talk about all the bad stuff in the world. This ride showed there is so much more good.   Every day of this ride we met someone who was making a difference in their own way or supported the ride and wanted to help others.  The second day of the ride we met a man in late 80’s that was in the military his whole life.  He fought for our freedom.  He came out and talked to us and shared his story.  He took our picture and when we got home had mailed copies of the pictures he took.  One lady that really hurt my heart came up to us at a gas station.  She was trying to get home from her nieces wedding and only had $5 to get home on but she insisted I take it to help get people clean water.  I tried hard to get her to take it back because she needed it but she was insistent she wanted to be a part of helping people.  It wasn’t about the amount it showed the big heart she had.   Another lady had heard about the ride on facebook and found us and had handmade a blue rose to signify water and gave it to me.  She told us about the conditions she lived in growing up and how clean water meant so much to her.  She worried about getting sick and her family members dying from diseases caused by dirty water.  Now she doesn’t have to worry about that here but she was in tears because she was thankful we were trying to help people like her.   There was this other lady her son joined us for half the day one day.  She was a hair dresser and she volunteered to cut the whole teams hair.  She gave 8 haircuts that day for free.  She used her talents to help others.  So cool.  The lady in this picture is Hazel. She volunteers 3 days a week at Conoco on Historic Route 66.  She moved there after her husband died and she just spreads joy to everyone she meets. She hugged us all was so nice and happy.

So I would say the hardest part of riding my bike across the country was the heat.  Holy cow it was so hot. I had to do it during the summer since I was out of school.  The desert was so dry.  Our GPS on our bikes got up to over 130 on the pavement.  It was so dry we didn’t sweat.  Water was so important.  It really made me see how vital  water/clean water is.  There was one day I got a little over-heated and the whole team stopped for an extra 30 minutes so I could rehydrate and cool down.  Some of the coolest parts were the things we got to see.  I learned we live in an amazing beautiful country. The desert was pretty – hot but pretty. The mountains were hard to climb but when you got to the top it was some of the prettiest sights you would ever see. My faith was strengthened with every climb. You could see for miles and see rivers and streams.  We crossed the mighty Mississippi River, saw some of the coolest farmland, and old barns. Sure made me thankful to live in such a pretty place.

I was so glad to get to see pretty places but I think one of the best days of the ride was the day we hit South Carolina. We made it to our home state. Now I know what they mean when people say there is no place like home.   I had already ridden my bike across South Carolina when I was 10. I knew what to expect and we had so many friends that would be joining the ride after we got into South Carolina. That last 5 days was so much fun. Realizing we actually did it!! Riding with friends who all were there to help get people clean water. We laughed a lot. It was so much fun and it felt good to talk about the ride over that last 8 weeks and all the cool things we saw and the amazing people we met. That was one of the best weeks of my life.  It was a week to reflect and see giving up one summer is nothing compared to what people go through every day just for clean water. I was exhausted but so thankful for all the people who were a part of making a difference in my life and the lives of so many people that were going to get clean water.

Every time I see this picture I either cry or get a big lump in my throat. This was us riding back into Summerville on the second to last day.  We rode into Northwood Church and all these kids were sitting on the curb screaming and giving me five.  It was a reminder that it really doesn’t matter how old you are you can make a difference in this world. A lot of these kids had done chores to earn money for clean water. They had lemonade stands. Some even gave tooth fairy money.  That is what this ride was all about. Putting other people’s needs as important as our own. I really hope that this ride helps people see we can make a difference in our own way.  I am just a 13-year-old kid. It’s funny I never excelled at any sports and went to speech therapy for a long time but I knew how to ride a bike and that how I could help. I had a birthday party when I was 8 to raise money for clean water, road my bike across South Carolina when I was 10 and now that kid who wasn’t a huge athlete road across the entire country raising over $616,000 and shares with people and groups all the time.  We are ALL world changers!


This picture is what started it all. I saw this picture when I was 7 at church. A guy from Water Mission came in and told us about the global water crisis.  I had no idea people didn’t have what I have. I thought everybody had clean water. It hurt my heart so bad. I couldn’t quit thinking about and that kids were dying just because of water.  About people who don’t have a toilet. We have 2 in our house. Water Mission helps provide clean water and sanitation to people and I wanted to be a part of it.  A lot of times I sit and daydream about the ride or think about riding across the country before I go to bed. I get tears in my eyes.  Not because of the ride itself but thinking about the people it will help.  That could be me, my parents, my sisters, or my friends that don’t have clean water and I really hope that someone would care enough to help them.  You know if this world were just a little different it could be me.  The ride was so huge and so many people came together to give to help change peoples lives forever.  Now that they get clean water their kids won’t have to worry about getting sick and all the generations after.  They will have more opportunities to go to school because they aren’t sick anymore.   I really hope that kids and adults see it doesn’t matter how old you are or if you have anything to give you can help change the world. No idea is too small!


Categories: Blog

Self-Discovery Didn’t Go As Expected

November 19, 2017 - 7:00am

Many people see their sexual orientation as a huge part of who they are. But for me, my identity isn’t really about who I’m attracted to.

I remember the day I joined my school’s’ Gay Straight Alliance. I was 14. Completely unexperienced, and trying to figure out what I was. Gay, straight, or bi?

The other kids tossed around a bunch of labels: agender, pansexual, androsexual, and non-binary–to name a few. The community seemed completely focused on what someone was, not who someone was.

I left the meeting feeling more confused than when I walked in. After a while, I realized I was forcing myself into an environment that didn’t fit. Aside from not being straight, I didn’t have anything in common with the people in my GSA.

Other things I like such as politics, writing and science fiction, make up the bulk of who I am. Even my mild makeup addiction is a more important piece of me than my sexual orientation.

I did learn a lot about myself in GSA — not just my sexual orientation but the fact that I prefer to bond with people over shared interests.

Categories: Blog