In Whitney Houston’s inspiration classic, “Greatest Love of All,” she mentions that children are the future and how people should treat them and let them lead the way. It seems as if that message resonated with four high school students in New York and California.
Eileen Ye, Mahmoud Abdellatif, Shreya Anand, and Ymorah Blakeney are making their mark on the community by ensuring everyone has equal access to resources and feels included and respected in various spaces.
Championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are more than just hopping on the popular bandwagon for these teenagers. They are actively working within their schools and associated organizations to help implement residual, positive change.
All About Her
According to a Forbes report, Shreya Anand is a junior at Los Alton High School in California. She interviews women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers on her show All About Her, airing on YouTube. As a first-year high school student, Anand noted the number of young women avoiding STEM classes. To encourage her peers not to shy away from what could be seen as more intimidating subject matters, she believed that interviewing successful women in STEM could help guide her career and encourage other young women.
Completing her first interview, Anand went on to find more women to interview for her series. Growing the platform beyond its initial reach, Anand’s featured guests include Dr. Carla Cotwright-Williams, a mathematician who is a Technical Director at the U.S. Department of Defense; Maria Chavez, President of BioCurious; Professor Erica Graham, who teaches mathematics at Bryn Mawr College, and Shannon Hateley, a computational biologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
“I started my podcast, All About Her, for two main reasons: firstly, to help myself and others to discover new careers and opportunities by hearing from successful women in those fields, and secondly, to build a community for other underrepresented people who are also interested in STEM to have the support they need to pursue their dreams,” Anand told Forbes.
DEI From The Inside Out
The President and Vice President of the Junior Economic Club of New York City, Eileen Ye and Mahmoud Abdellatif, lead the student-run organization with a mission to educate and inspire emerging leaders.
The organization was founded at the top of the pandemic and was positioned to teach high school students skills to prepare them to be the world’s next leaders. According to the Forbes report, the Junior Economic Club of New York is “a living demonstration of how DEI can be integrated into the very fiber of an organization without making a big deal about it.”
The organization’s board is diversity in action and representation. In a statement from Ye, she expressed how building out a diverse board has engrained DEI into much of their programming.
“It is amazing how, through a focus on diversity in creating our first leadership board, DEI has carried into every facet, from members to speakers and even webinar topics, and become a core value of our organization,” Ye explained.
Black Girls Talk
Founder and Director of Black Girls Talk (BGT), Ymorah Blakeney, is using her organization to provide a safe space and offer youth development resources to Black girls between 14 and 18. A current graduating senior at Bard High School in Queens, Blakeney initially founded BGT as a club in her high school as a response to racially infused incidents at her school. Those events made her realize that the need for safe spaces for Black students was critical to their development as they navigated spaces that were not as welcoming. Based on the Forbes report, Black female students represent only 6% of the student body.
“I wanted to create a safe space for the Black female students, staff, and faculty to discuss the issues in and outside of our school that was affecting them and build sisterhood amongst us,” Blakeney explained.
According to Forbes, that organization grew to host two monthly meetings that provide community-building, emotional support, and the opportunity to discuss the issues that impact members and a guest-speaker series featuring Black women in STEM, business, and activism.
These four students are impacting local change, and the future of their work is making a significant impact in the world of DEI.