How one Leadership Institute alum used her Action Plan to make a difference in her community.
The Brown Leadership Institute gives students the opportunity to learn about a social issue that’s important to them. As part of their coursework, students create an Action Plan that builds on what they’ve learned and addresses an issue facing their community back home.
We recently caught up with Kendra, a high school junior from Sudbury, Massachusetts, who has been using the Action Plan she created last summer to spark social activism in her high school and the local community. She answered questions about that work, what she learned at the Leadership Institute, and why she’ll never stop learning about important social issues. Read our interview with Kendra below:
What initially attracted you to the Leadership Institute?
First, I wanted to hone the critical problem-solving and mediation skills needed to be an effective peer mediator at my high school. I had the honor of being accepted into the prestigious LS Peer Mediation Leadership program, where I was certified to facilitate discussions to help students in conflict come to safe and effective resolutions. The Leadership Institute’s Social Change Model of Leadership Development seemed to embody this peer leadership model.
Second, I have an interest in a career in international relations and I found that the Leadership and Global Engagement elective aligned with my classes and with the Global Scholars Program I was accepted into at my high school. I hoped to add context to and deepen my understanding of complex international issues, which I could apply to my high school coursework.
Describe the Action Plan you created at the Leadership Institute.
My Action Plan, entitled “Can You Hear Us Now!” was my effort to spark social activism among students in my high school and community to raise awareness of important political and social issues. Specifically, I wanted to use student engagement to address the lack of civility among our elected officials, and let our leaders know that students have a voice.
What are some of the takeaways from your time at the Leadership Institute?
Beyond in-depth learning about the topics I am interested in, the Leadership Institute gave me the invaluable opportunity to immerse myself in its prestigious collegiate setting, to make lifelong friends from all different backgrounds and regions and to create a foundation for the leadership skills that I will use throughout my life. The program challenged me academically and socially. I learned so much about myself and overcame fears of stepping up, speaking up and taking action. I still keep in touch with the friends I made from all over the United States, Greece, Pakistan, Egypt, Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil!
How have you taken this learning and applied it to issues in your home community?
I worked to fulfill my Action Plan as soon as school started in September. I researched and selected the national Youth Action March as my capstone project. Organized by youth activists nationwide, its mission was to amplify youth voices and connect youth with political and social organizations doing good in the world.
On October 7, on the Boston Common, I led a strong student showing from my high school at the march. Our unified and amplified voice helped send a forceful message to the local, state and federal government. More importantly, the march provided an opportunity for students to stand up for what they believe in and to take the first steps toward getting involved with direct action in a positive way.
What are you currently working on and how did you get interested in these topics?
In light of the recent school shooting in Florida, I helped my high school club Students Organizing for Active Resilience (S.O.A.R.) organize a school-wide walkout on March 14 to show support for and solidarity with the students of Parkland. We held a 17-minute moment of silence in honor of the victims. We are currently discussing further actions (petitions, additional marches, etc) to convince politicians in Washington to support tougher gun laws.
What tips would you give to other students who want to be involved but don’t know how to begin?
One: Match your career interests with a great summer program that will help you assess and explore those interests. I am interested in international relations so when exploring the Brown Pre-College Programs and reading more about the Leadership and Global Engagement course, I was hooked! Two: Ask yourself, what am I passionate about? I am passionate about activism and taking a leadership role to affect change. When I learned that this program would give students the opportunity to develop and present an Action Plan of our choice, youth activism immediately came to mind. It was a win-win to be able to work on something like this under the guidance of two amazing professors and to see it through in my school and community.
What do you feel you still need to work on, learn and better understand?
I will always be a lifelong learner. The world is constantly changing and issues seem to be getting more complex. I will not always have the right answers, but learning the best path to obtaining these answers and feeling confident in my judgment and analysis is something I want to work on and become more comfortable with. Attending the Brown Leadership Institute last summer was certainly the right first step on this very long road of learning.
For more information about the Brown Leadership Institute, visit the program website »
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