“Have confidence in yourself. Believe in what you think you can do. And, believe in things you think you can’t do. Here I am, standing here, doing the thing I thought I couldn’t do. It can be very hard to have the confidence to do something like this, but you can do it.”
What topic did you pursue in your Learning Challenge? I decided to use a social media platform to reach out to Black young women and girls to get more in touch with the journey of being a Black woman and to reassure them that they weren’t alone. I wanted to get at least 300 followers, and I did.
Why did you choose this Challenge? I’m originally from Jamaica and moved to New York City when I was about 12. I attended a predominantly Black school during my teenage years before my family moved to a predominantly white community in New Jersey. That move was really hard for my younger sister. She experienced bullying from her peers about the way she looked, her hair, etc. It was hard to see her not wanting to go to school because of what was happening. It struck me that if this was happening to my sister, it was happening worldwide to children who look like her and me. So, in a way, I did it for her, and I featured her on the page.
How did you approach your Learning Challenge? I chose Instagram since that’s a platform everyone knows and already uses, and it’s accessible worldwide. I knew it would be more accessible than creating a website. I also knew it was going to be hard to get people to the page. I started promoting it at my school, letting people know I was doing it, and asking them to help me spread the word. I had my mom promote it among schools she taught at back home. I had a few friends from Canada, Jamaica, and even the Cayman Islands who were following and sharing. I tried to let everyone know what I was fighting for and that I needed their help. I also shared it with TeenSHARP (the organization that told me about GripTape) since I was a Committee Chair on their Student Advisory Board. Beyond promotion, I had to build the page. I did a few at-home photoshoots with my sister wearing shirts with Black history quotes or empowering quotes for women. My sister is an artist, and she drew some pictures, including the art for the profile photo. I was showcasing what was available and my sister’s talent as an artist.
How did you use your funding? I needed money for social media promotion and to buy tee shirts with positive messages to include in my posts. I realized I didn’t need much money to do what I wanted to do. I was more focused on outreach than spending.
What did you set out to learn and what did you learn? I can’t really put myself in the category of being African American because I’m not from America, and Jamaica is a predominantly Black country. I wasn’t exposed to racism and colorism at home. Hearing stories from people about what they had to deal with due to the color of their skin or hair taught me a lot about the hardships that African American women go through on a daily basis – and that I was now starting to experience here.
What advice would you give young people who are thinking about applying? My advice is to take any opportunity that comes your way. Even if you don’t feel you have a good idea or don’t know how to go about doing it, the thing you apply to will always give you a network. I hesitated about applying because I wasn’t sure if my project made sense or if people would think it was worth the time. But you have to think about what you want for yourself.
What impact did the Challenge have on you? It made me realize that putting my mind toward something will give me the outcome I’m looking for. I was very wary that I would not be able to reach the goal I had set for myself, but the more I put myself out there, the more people responded. I got an even greater outcome than I ever could have asked for.
Taylor completed her challenge in high school and is now studying psychology with a concentration in neuroscience.