In this period of unprecedented events, I know millions of kids who are ready to share their voices. Join me in listening and giving them a platform to speak.
As a mom of four, and the leader of a philanthropy whose mission is to create healthier school communities in partnership with our nation’s schools and our nation’s youth, I feel more strongly than ever that “the youth voice” is not being heard. Whether it be the unrest in our nation around race and inequality, the fear of living in a COVID-19 world, or the consequences of food insecurity, job losses or other vital topics of importance to them, young voices need to be heard.
At GENYOUth, we can’t do what we do without the student voice. We are privileged to support 38 million kids daily in 73,000 of our nation’s schools because our programs are created for and with KIDS. It’s their voice that curates, defines, and elevates the work we do. Our society will only grow stronger if we uplift, empower, and amplify the voices of this next generation. For the foreseeable future, I will turn over this platform on Medium to them, in addition to my Twitter and Instagram feeds. They have asked one thing of me: LET US SPEAK! I am honored to do so. I am now pleased to share Jimena’s voice with you:
Thursday, June 11
Today, just as other days, I sat at my desk, ready to start working. But just as I went to turn my computer on, I noticed my reflection on the monitor. I recognized my face, but something felt odd about it. I’ve seen this reflection so many times before, yet today feels different.
Three months ago, sitting exactly where I am now, I felt my heart drop through the floor as I swiped through the notifications on my phone. School was effectively cancelled for the foreseeable future. The pandemic entirely took over the news and conversations, both at home and with friends. And just like that, my entire family was confined at home; all adapting to our new lives, to be lived almost entirely through a screen. Seeing how our society is so fragile and hyper dependent on a number of non-predictable elements that could easily fall apart at any moment was just so surreal. From one day to the next, human society has had to completely rethink many aspects of its daily life. Almost all the appointments and activities that a couple of weeks before seemed unalterable were postponed or cancelled; we have had to change, adapt and keep on going the best we can.
For my family, the change has been relatively easy, because we have had the privilege to keep our activities going at home. Fortunately, our biggest challenges have been venturing to the supermarket and trying to not run out hand sanitizer.
But I realized that many people are having very difficult times. Some of them are in the frontline of the war against the virus, taking care of the sick and keeping the hospitals going. Other families are taking the risk of becoming infected in order to put food on the table. Some students have seen their school year coming to a halt because they don’t have access to virtual learning. Many families have lost loved ones, without being able to be close during their last moments.
If I’m feeling afraid and anxious about our current situation, I can only imagine what others are feeling.
This sudden stop to our fast-paced world has given us an otherwise scarce staple: time. And with it, having as a backdrop the uncertainty and the fear, you feel compelled to reflect, to try to make sense of this new reality.
Then you start to understand how dependent we are of one another, for anything and everything, to have food to buy, to try to keep the world moving, to stay healthy and alive.
And with your heart softened and anxiety about the future, you begin to interpret the world in a different light.
At this moment, as if it were part of an eerie choreography, in unison, the world witnessed the death of George Floyd. His tragic death broke the dam that was containing a sea of injustice, inequality and pain.
We have witnessed how thousands of voices, in our country and around the world have come together to demand the recognition of injustice and to require a change revealing personal experiences that fill us with sadness and horror.
As we start sharing the news, the people you know, your classmates, your friends, start sharing their feelings and stories from their own eyes. Then you realize how different from yours can be the perspective of the person who sits right next you at school.
I want to share the story of a friend who took to social media to voice his fear and anxiety. Chase, a 16-year-old of Puerto Rican and Black descent, recounted how he was personally impacted by the seemingly complete pause of society and later the demands for justice and equality.
He recounted, “It’s heart-breaking because I don’t want to be afraid for my family… I grew up with a single mom who worked hard to get us to where we are today; living in a house in the suburbs and going to a good school”.
About his fears, he expresses, “It breaks my heart that sometimes, I have to look at my mom and calm myself down because I don’t want to be afraid of anything happening to either of us. It’s a reality I want to live in. One in which nobody has to feel that level of overwhelming fear…”
He couldn’t help but think, “It really shouldn’t be this way”. But he is comforted when he sees support and understanding: “It makes me happy that everywhere I look, there’s support. There’s love”.
He ended by saying, “We are all human. Black, White, Asian, Latino, whatever it is, I want to stop waking up to overwhelming injustice”.
Sometimes we don’t see and understand the perspectives and the personal situations of the people we have around us every day.
I’m grateful Chase had shared his thoughts and feelings. His story gave me a view of life through a lens I hadn’t completely understood until he painted the picture.
Hearing the heart with which he spoke truly made me understand how he felt, and how this had influenced his life.
We have to start listening. We have to take the time to truly understand each other so that when we go about solving nation-wide issues, we can reach effective, profound solutions.
A microscopic form of life just showed us how fragile we are and how much we depend on each other; let’s work together so George Floyd’s death is the last act of injustice against another human being.
I see now that the uncanny feeling about my reflection is not a distortion of shape or color. It’s just that I’m not the same person I was 3 months ago.
My purpose is more than just advancing in our fast-paced world; I want a better world for all. I see someone who is becoming a better person because of what’s surrounding me.
I want to see what others see, I want to connect with others, I want to invent new ways to help, I want to make a difference. I want to see the world beyond my own eyes.
Link to my website: https://vermic.com/tinocofamily/