We Don’t Give Students Voices, They Have Voices

By Twylah Greaves, Chiara Wegener
April 21, 2017

“We’re the ones in the classrooms, why not ask us?”— A common refrain, we at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, hear from the young people we’re working with around New England. We believe that when students are actively engaged in their learning, and given a voice in their communities to affect change, schools and communities become a better place.

Recently, we had the pleasure of awarding Hearing Youth Voices (HYV), a youth-led organizing group based out of New London, Connecticut, with the Nellie Mae Education Foundation Youth Organizing Award, for their activism and organizing efforts to advance student-centered learning in New London Public Schools.

At the award ceremony we held for HYV, we got to hear from Twylah Greaves, one of their powerful and inspiring young leaders, about her voice and her hopes for the future. The world would be a better place with more Twylahs!

Twylah at Microphone


Her full speech:

I Want to Be Famous
By: Twylah Greaves 
I want to be famous, but not in the same way other people want to be. Where others view fame as a title, I view it as a tool. You see, in a world full of Beyonces and Kardashians, I am the Malala Yousafzai: teaching, motivating, and encouraging people.
I want to be famous, but not in the same way others hope to be.
My fame won’t be documented on the front cover of the newest edition of Vogue, nor will it be TMZ’s latest story.
No, my fame will be documented in history books among names such as King, Shakur, and Badu. Organizing, advocating, fighting.
My fame won’t stem from my more than average looks nor will it be the result of who I know.
My fame will bear the fruits of liberation, shining hope on the new generation, giving guidance to the lost like the railroads of the south.
I won’t have fans or record labels to thank at music award ceremonies.
Ironically, I will have discrimination and doubt to thank when giving my speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.
To discrimination I owe my identity, bullying me into an isolated corner filled with love and diversity that I’ve come to know as Black Power.
To doubt I owe my drive, pushing me to always prove close minded people ignorant.
My fame will flourish from passion and love, not scandals and self-interest. My fame will be used to voice the opinions of those not allowed to have an opinion.
I will use my words to captivate an audience, not my body. People will feel the words I speak, not passively listen to them.
I want to be famous, but not in the same way others dream to be.
You know, Martin had a dream; and I have a dream.
A dream of diversity and equality for all. Being the product of a biracial couple myself, I owe my life to this dream and its fulfillment.
I want to be famous.
I want to be famous, not for money or for whatever benefits I myself may sow. I want to be famous to educate and inspire a nation like the great leaders before me.
It is said that people only listen when you’re famous or dead.
Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, why is no one listening?
Someone lied, they only listen when you’re famous…
My name is Twylah. I am black, I am a female, I am an activist, and I am going to be famous.
I’m going to be famous, and I’m going to change the world.


Twylah Greaves

Nylah Greaves, Twylah Greaves, Shineika Fareus and Laura Burfoot with the Youth Organizing Award for Hearing Youth Voices.

Twylah is a senior at Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton, CT and a youth organizer at Hearing Youth Voices, a New London, CT-based organizing group. 

Chiara Wegener is the External Affairs Manager for the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

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