A guest blog post by Jalisa Jackson, a 16-year-old junior at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy with a passion for social justice and activism. She participated in Youth Narrating Our World through The OpEd Project.
When last Saturday came around, I was kind of sad because since October, The OpEd Project’s Youth Narrating Our World (YNOW) program had been very exciting. It was so refreshing to be around other like-minded, socially conscious people my age because I rarely experience that.Being in a space where you can share honest thoughts, emotions, and experiences without the fear of judgment is awesome. I knew I’d definitely miss convening with the other teens, as well as our mentors, Michele Weldon, Deborah Douglas and Catherine Baxter.
At this third and final convening, we got to meet Clarence Waldron, another adjunct professor at Northwestern’s Medill and former Jet Magazine writer and editor who effortlessly awed us with his tales of the greats: Whitney Houston, Maya Angelou and Aretha Franklin.Mr. Waldron coached us on how to interview and be interviewed, giving tips on correctness, efficiency, and confidence.We also met Eric Ferkenhoff, founder of The Chicago Bureau, where many of our articles were published. When he told us that our articles had generated the most site traffic since its founding, I was honestly astonished that people wanted and valued our opinions.
I think the most profound thing I’ll take away from this program was that we, a group of teens from all corners of the city, could come together and be given a chance to have our voices heard. Our opinions were valued, and we are now tasked with continuing to carry out YNOW’s mission: to make youth voices heard in the media. I have no doubt we’ll go far.