Note: This post is written by Valonda Roberts.
My name is Valonda Roberts, and I am a Mikva alum. I graduated from North Lawndale College Prep in 2007. I loved participating in programs like Issues to Action when I was a Mikva student. It made me feel empowered to make change in my school and community. We worked on projects like getting comprehensive sex education taught in Chicago Public Schools and informing students that they could opt out of military recruitment mailings.
I recently accepted an opportunity to be an intern at Mikva and to encourage current high school students to be the change they want to see. I love youth development, and am excited to be a source of empowerment for the next generation. I recently had my first day leading a Peace and Leadership Council session at Tilden High School. It was so exciting; we introduced new activities and discussed respect and boundaries. It was so different being a Mikva facilitator versus a Mikva student, with so many inquiring minds looking to you for answers. They definitely keep me going.
This semester, we have a few new students and an amazing group of returners. Last semester the Council worked hard to encourage their school administration to reward students with “Dress Down Fridays.” With this new policy, students with good behavior, attendance, and grades can come to school out of uniform at the end of the week. This change not only gives students the opportunity to express themselves through fashion, but it also encourages them to stay out of trouble.
This semester, the students have also chosen to focus on cafeteria food. They want to be able to have a greater variety and a greater voice in the choice of food, and are currently documenting the lunch food served as part of their research.
I am extremely excited for this semester. I have faith that these youth have the drive to make change happen. As an alumnus, it feels good to know that I can be an inspiration and share my love for social change with the next generation. Hopefully my story lets them know that it does not have to stop when they graduate from high school. They can go on to work in policy, be a politician, or even work for Mikva Challenge!