Youthful Pioneers

Hi everyone! My name is Jennifer Quiroz and I am a new summer intern at The Practice Space! I am a Richmond native that graduated from Leadership Public Schools Richmond and I am currently entering my second year at Berkeley City College! Both of these academic environments have allowed me to practice my leadership and public speaking skills. Public Speaking used to scare me to pieces, even to this day, depending on the circumstances. From as long as I can remember, I would hate being called on in class or even speaking in front of large crowds for that matter. I always got into my head, and worried about whether or not I would turn red, stutter, lose my train of thought, or of how others would perceive me. However, I would take advantage of my educational outlets to discover not only who I am, but who I want to be, and what I want to share with the world.  Through summer programs, performing arts class, work, and opportunities within my classes, I learned to become more comfortable with speaking in front of large crowds — or at least find out how I can make it work.

“Leaders come in different shapes and forms”

As far as leadership skills, I never really considered myself as a leader, I thought, I’m too shy to be a leader! It wasn’t until my junior year when I had a conversation with my history teacher. I voiced to him my concerns about my leadership skills and expressed that I hope to become a leader after my summer program. He told me, “Jennifer, you don’t think you are a leader?” confused at my sentiments he said, “You lead by example!”  Although a short exchange, he made me realize that leaders can come in different shapes and forms. This is what the Expressive Leaders program is: getting students comfortable with themselves and their innate potential to unlock a grand array of public speaking and leadership skills! It allows students to use what they are passionate about as a means to make a change while developing necessary skills. 

I had the pleasure of attending the Expressive Leaders event that was held on Facebook Live on June 20, 2020. Initially, I wasn’t too sure about what the program was and how much went into it so going in I didn’t know what to expect. Each session was occupied by different scholars sharing their projects that they have been working on since the beginning of fall. Each of which was centered around something they were passionate about implementing within their communities. The topics ranged from environmental issues, homelessness, educational reforms, to cooking programs all over the bay area. It was very interesting to see the creativity expressed within each project. I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to see the process of each scholar’s project, but just by their presentations it can be immediately noted that they worked very hard on them. It must have taken much dedication to fully flesh out such grand ideas and elaborate programs so it really highlights their characters and genuine passion to make a difference!

To show the great amount of change the youth are capable of I would like to highlight the youngest scholar amongst the expressive leaders group — Jazmin. Jazmin is only 10 years old and she has already implemented a change within her community through various action plans. She made me think “what was I doing when I was 10”, as well as, “what can I be doing right now to contribute to this change?” Jazmin’s hope is to work towards addressing the growing issue of homelessness within her community. She has established food drives within her school, clothing drives within her church and is even in the midst of selling her very own book — Drops of Hope! As our Host, AnnMarie, stated “Leadership can happen at any age.” Jazmin’s story is one of the many inspiring instances that can lead to other youth or even other adults igniting a flame within themselves to spark a movement in the world! 

I had an amazing experience during each session, it was very inspiring and empowering to see all the different types of projects. As someone who is passionate about using different forms of media to give voices to those who are underrepresented, when I saw projects such as Mistura’s G2G TV,  Ana’s Women in Stem initiative, Melchizedek’s Tasteful Stories, Ella’s podcast on public education funding, Siddarth’s Times Up Podcast and Mercy’s Young Voices Channel I jumped with excitement! I also loved to see the integration of the students projects within not only their schools but also communities! Such as Cole’s Debate Club, Belens Public Speaking Club, Kayla’s Storytelling Mini Course, Elohivm’s Golden Debaters Interactive Recruitment Demo, Amber’s Activism Training for Youth in Local Government + Politics, and Saif’s Vision 2020 website. 

 “Each member is a pioneer, navigating into what most children their age might not be undergoing.”

Essentially, I found Expressive Leaders to be a program where youth learn what it really means to be a leader and the steps one has to take to make a change. It is a very welcoming and resourceful environment for students to create anything they set their mind to. The program allows them to incorporate their own values as well as the values and skills taught to them through the program into their own projects. We often tend to overlook how much the youth are capable of, thus when we come across stories and projects such as those from the Expressive Leaders, it really puts things into perspective. Anyone can make a change, no matter their age, race, gender, and overall background. Each member is a pioneer, navigating into what most children their age might not be undergoing. This very fact inevitably makes them emerging role models for others — others that want to make a change. Youth their age can be able to look up to them and find comfort within the fact that someone they can identify with (age, race, gender, or background) is making a change. Nonetheless, a simple blog post is not sufficient enough to capture such innovative projects, you can watch the videos from the live stream on The Practice Space facebook page! 

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