This semester VOX ATL is highlighting teen activists making changes in Atlanta with our VOX Investigates: Youth Activism Revolution (#YAR) coverage. If you are a teen activist or know of any interested in having their voice heard, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sitting in front of my computer screen looking at my schedule, everything I had to do started to sink in:
-Girls Tech Thursday
-Science Carnival booth Friday
-Finish up the logo design for Planned Parenthood by tomorrow.
-Finish the lesson plan for the Gender Day summit.
-Complete panel questions for the Latino Students Day.
-Plus, three shifts working as a math tutor after school.
I’ve always been a busy person. Over the past four years, I have spent practically all my free time creating projects that would outlive my high school career. Though my high school experience is not for everyone, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My extracurricular activities turned me into the activist I am today. Through volunteering and leading clubs, I discovered the kind of person I want to be. But I was not always so involved in extracurriculars.
Walking down the halls of Paideia for the first time in ninth grade intimidated me. Even in a small high school of only 400 kids, it felt like another world. Everyone had a project of their own. Kids seemed so sure of what they wanted to do, while I felt confused and overwhelmed. From day one of high school, I had big ideas for clubs, but I felt unsure about where to start.
My big “ah-ha” came when I stepped into the robotics lab for the first time. Looking around the dimly lit garage I immediately noted that I was the only girl. Being the only girl on a robotics team felt isolating in unexpected ways. I found myself longing for a club where I could pursue my love for robotics without fear of being judged or singled out. Thus, my passion project, Girls Tech Club, started.
I presented my idea for an all-female robotics and coding club to my math teacher Jen Leon, and everything started to move quickly. I had to learn how to advocate for myself and what I wanted. I started by asking other club leaders how they started their clubs. I found other teachers to talk to and other girls who would be interested in joining. Girls Tech Club pushed me out of my comfort zone as a shy ninth-grader. I soon started to juggle bake sales, club announcements, meetings with faculty, and lesson plans. All while trying to keep up with the first year of high school.
I will never forget the feeling of relief when I saw the first two girls walk through the doors at my first meeting. I had spent months talking with teachers and planning in order for the club to finally get off the ground. Since that day in ninth grade, every Wednesday Girls Tech has worked to help interest more females in STEAM at my school. Though we are still a small club of three core members, it has still had an impact on our school’s community. Maintaining membership has been a long struggle, but with a core group of three girls, I know the club will exist after I graduate.
The confidence I gained from Girls Tech helped me apply on a whim to the Planned Parenthood Teen Action Group (TAG). Working with Planned Parenthood opened a whole new world of activism for me. Through my work with TAG, I was able to attend the national Planned Parenthood Power of Pink conference in 2018 and march in the Atlanta Pride Parade from 2017 to 2019. I have also taught sex ed lessons at community centers across Atlanta. I am currently leading my school’s first Planned Parenthood club, where we advocate for more inclusive sex ed at my high school.
My extracurricular activities snowballed after Girls Tech and TAG. I started to work over the summers teaching coding and robotics to autistic children at the Hirsch Academy. I won the National Center for Women in Technology Georgia award for Aspirations in Computing in 2017. Because of that award, I was able to get my current job as a math tutor at Mathnasium of Tucker.
Creating and leading clubs is one of the most challenging and fulfilling experiences you can have in high school. Through my club work, I learned about jobs, scholarships, and future internships. Though it can seem overwhelming at first, taking the leap and starting a club can open a whole world of opportunities.
A club leader’s guide for starting a successful club:
Find a specific issue to address
Keep goals in mind surrounding a specific issue you’re trying to address. Goals help keep the club focused and more productive.
Ask established club leaders at your school who they talked to when stating their own clubs
Every school administration is different. Asking club leading veterans will help you learn the ropes at your specific high school.
Elevate your email game
Keeping your emails professional can help tremendously when reaching out to people to help with the club. I cannot overstate the importance of learning how to write a formal email to reach out to people.
Find a partner
I would not be able to handle all my responsibilities without the help of my amazing co-leaders. Finding someone to help you do day-to-day club stuff reduces stress and improves the club itself.
Keep engagement strong
Try ice breakers and snacks at every meeting, and you will be surprised how many more people show up consistently and enthusiastically.
Written by Isabel Goico, a senior at The Paideia School.