Alum of the Month: Douglas Thurman

Tell us about your Mikva Challenge experience. 

Wow, where do I begin? My Mikva experience is one-of-a-kind. I can honestly say that was not interested at all in joining Mikva when I first heard about the organization. I was a 14 year old high school sophomore who was only interested in playing sports, video games, and watching TV, just like any young teenager. My mother, Juanita Douglas, (my everything) was involved with Mikva Challenge as a teacher at Lincoln Park High School through Project Soapbox and Elections in Action, so my reason to not join was really to not follow in her footsteps. However, fate had different plans. When she gave me the application to apply, I remember saving the application on my computer as “Boring Youth Challenge Application” AND BOY I WAS 100% WRONG! If anybody knows Brian Brady and Miriam Martinez, then you should know that Mikva Challenge is the farthest thing away from boring. After I finally gave in and cut the immaturity, I finally joined, and there was no looking back. I remember going to Springfield, IL and having people to sign petitions to increase funding in Chicago Public Schools system, and the experience that I gained from that trip to Springfield is unforgettable. Since that day, I fell in love with the Mikva and everything they stood for.

What programs were you involved with at Mikva Challenge?

I was involved with the Youth Innovation Fund that turned into the Education Council, which is now known as the Student Advisory Council. During my time on the council, my peers and I met with former CEO of Chicago Public Schools (and now current U.S Secretary of Education) Arne Duncan as his advisory council. Every time we met with Secretary Duncan, we told him what CPS high school students thought about all school-related issues. One of my proudest moments during my time on the council was when we all collectively organized a Peace Rally for all CPS students for two years straight.

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am living in Shreveport, Louisiana and have been working as a News Producer for KTBS 3 News for the past 6 months. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for me learning about politics via Mikva Challlenge, I wouldn’t have this job today. I say that because my job requires me to highlight issues that affect my surrounding community, as well as putting a spotlight on non-profit and local organizations that impact the community. I then put that in a local newscast. Without my time at Mikva Challenge, I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing now at work.

How has your experience as a Mikva Challenge youth informed who you are today?

My experience as a Mikva Challenge youth has molded me into a man who I never thought I would become. But first, let me thank my mother who encouraged me to join this organization, which was the best decision I have ever made. Next, I would like to thank Senior Program Director, Miriam Martinez for truly being apart of my experience as a Mikva Challenge youth. During the time I was at Mikva, she has taught me how to find my voice and use it to provoke a positive change and to go against the grain. I went to a small high school on the North Side called Roger C. Sullivan High School, and I just wanted to hide in this small school and just get by. But, thanks to Mikva, I learned that “just getting by” is not good enough. Surprisingly, during all my time in getting involved with school politics and the 2008 presidential campaign with Mikva, I didn’t want to get involved with politics. I wanted to get involved in media and spread the message of issues that impact society. I didn’t care if it was politics, education, civil rights, or immigration reform. I wanted to spotlight these platforms and inform the public. Now, I am addressing these platforms as a news producer in a small city in Louisiana, and I plan to take everything I learn from my current situation as a news producer, and in the following years, I plan to move back home to Chicago and constantly address issues that need to be expressed. Without Mikva Challenge, I wouldn’t know the true definition of progress.