When asked what a leader is, Destinee pauses thoughtfully. It’s a question with a lot of answers, she explains, since there’s so much that goes into being a leader. Then she decides on what she wants to say. “I think it’s someone who’s collaborative, someone who’s honest, and someone who’s passionate about what they’re doing.”
Destinee joined Girls Inc.’s leadership program, called “ACT,” in ninth grade, and has done incredible work over the past four years. One of her most memorable moments occurred during a rally that she and her fellow ACT participants organized to address gender-based violence. The rally was completely youth-led—from from printing out the flyers to advertising the event on social media. But when the day came, Destinee remembers being somewhat nervous- would anyone actually show up?
Fifty community members arrived at the rally. They walked through Oakland together with their signs, getting out the message that everyone deserves to be safe. Cars stopped and people called out their support, cheering the girls on. At that moment, Destinee says, “I felt really proud to be in Oakland.”
As Destinee and her fellow ACT participants continued to grow as leaders, they chose additional topics- including equity in the local education system, and reducing community violence in Oakland. For this last topic, they were supported to do their own local research on ways to address violence, and then collaboratively developed recommendations based on that research. Their recommendations were then published in the East Bay Express.
It’s leaders like Destinee and her Girls Inc. sisters who give us hope that the future will be brighter than the present. And now it’s Destinee’s senior year, and she has joined Girls Inc.’s college readiness program so that she will be among the 100% of seniors in the program who go on to college. Next fall, Destinee will be ready to bring her voice, her remarkable presence, and her ability to make change into higher education- and then into whatever future she chooses.
What are some of Destinee’s hopes as she takes these next steps? As she puts it, “I…hope to get people who are younger than me into programs like this, and also just to spread as much awareness about things as much as I can… and also to keep learning, because Girls Inc. has taught me how to do that– not just in the classroom, but [in] everything.”