“This was a stepping stone into learning who I am. If you are ready for this, you should take a shot at it.”
How did you learn about GripTape, and what made you decide to apply? I heard about it on Instagram during the pandemic. A lot of people were sharing it during a time when there was a lot of activity online because we were all home. When I saw it, I thought, “This is something that could make my life better.” And, I applied. I will add, though, that I’m first gen and had to explain to my mom why I was getting money for free. She thought it was a scam!
What topic did you pursue in your Learning Challenge? I decided to start a podcast that I thought would be interesting to other teens.
Why did you choose this Challenge? My friend and I wanted a way to find our voice in media. We felt like we always had these deep conversations, but we never had a platform to share them. Together, we talked about all kinds of topics — social justice, climate change — really, anything deep. I thought other young people would like to have a place to talk about this stuff.
How did you approach your Learning Challenge? Honestly, it took me the whole 10 weeks just to release one episode. I had the plan, but it’s a struggle to balance being a teenager and also trying to do something you’re passionate about.
How did you use your funding? I got $500, and I used everything on equipment: audio apps, microphones, recorders, USB drives. Honestly, I went a little crazy on equipment. And I rented out a recording space for a day. I also wanted to build a website, so I bought a domain for it.
What was it like to work with a Champion? Having a Champion was amazing, especially because my parents were asking, “why are they giving you free money?,” and they weren’t really aware of opportunities like this. I was doing this all on my own, so having a Champion was perfect. Champions aren’t like a parent, on you 24/7. My Champion and I met bi-weekly. What I really enjoyed about them was that they didn’t ask for a progress report which is what I expected. I had my plan, and he asked, “What do you want to do? What’s stopping you?” He pushed us, but he wasn’t reporting on us.
What did you set out to learn and what did you learn? My goal was to learn how to produce a podcast that I would enjoy and that would build a network of people. I learned so much more — about listening, building a brand, time management, audio skills, editing, communication, community, and friendship.
What advice would you give young people who are thinking about applying? I’d ask them if they feel ready to build their own brand and their own project around something they’re passionate about. If their answer is “yes,” I’d tell them to stay committed to it.
What impact did the Challenge have on you? I feel like because I did the Learning Challenge, I was able to really put myself out there and take leadership in my own life. That helped me go to college far away from home.
America completed her Learning Challenge as a high school student and is now studying environmental studies and policy.