Youth Leading Youth and Transforming Education

GripTape is an organization that lets go. We let go of the common notion that young people are only capable of certain things. We let go of the fear that young people may not care. Working with an organization that has so much faith in young people, such as myself, has given me so much hope.

More than two years ago, I was asked if I wanted to help create the framework for a nonprofit. I was a freshman in college who was taking Biology and Chemistry in the same semester, so no, I didn’t. But when I learned that it was going to be a nonprofit that would give young people more say in their education, I reluctantly agreed. It was one of the best decisions I have made so far. Since then, I have been a member of GripTape’s Youth Leadership Board. The number of projects we have overseen, operations we have handled and documents we have created is unreal. The ideas that our Youth Leadership Board comes up with are the ones that get implemented. We are the ones who make the decisions. Youth leading youth.

As much as this may sound like a dream (and it is), a great deal of hard work and organization goes into what we do. We have constructed our own framework for youth agency, and we bring it to life with our program that awards young people up to $500 to pursue any type of learning. Hundreds of young people have engaged in learning challenges since we first came together. Every now and then, we even represent GripTape at conferences around the country. All of this gets done with careful planning, genuine transparency and fearlessness. My advice to any young person or adult who wishes to do something similar to us: have no fear. If you truly believe in what youth are capable of, you should be comfortable in letting us take the reins.

With the work that we and others who prioritize youth leadership do, education can be transformed. Just imagine: instead of standardized tests with kids sitting in rows with their faces stuffed in front of computers, kids could be working on projects where they figure out how they want their robot to operate. They could be figuring out what forms of artwork they want to explore next. They could be studying inclusive American history. Essentially, the goal is for young people to have a say in what they’re spending seven-plus hours a day studying. For the sake of the young people who will come after us, it is key that our voices be heard. Education regulated solely by adults who have been removed from the experience for decades is not the answer. How can adults truly know what is best for youth without having some form of bias?

GripTape is already on the path towards making purposeful and intentional change. With the help of our founders and funders, we will help put youth in the driver’s seat of their learning. Consistent support and faith in youth agency is what we have to offer. With that, we will transform education.

This article was originally posted in EdSurge on May 31, 2018.

Guest post by Natasha Taylor, a recent graduate of Delaware State University who sits on the Youth Leadership Board of GripTape. Natasha completed her Bachelor’s of Arts in Mass Communication within three years.

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