Design for Equitable Systems
Grace founded their first project, Kickin' Violence, when they were 15 years old, in their small town of Englewood, Florida. At the time, Grace had few resources for the project and few advisors, and often felt alone in their work. Grace scoured the internet for resources and networks, just trying to find someone who could help.
Luckily, Grace was selected for the National Child Awareness Month Ambassador Program as the representative from Florida, where they met young change makers from across the country and was given a sizable grant to do their work. With this support, they were able to start building coalitions of students and local anti-violence organizations. Through these experiences, Grace realized how powerful it is to be a mentor to other young people. They also learned how difficult it can be to start a project from scratch without local support.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Grace worried about the significant numbers of young people, specifically those in high school and college, who have had summer experiential opportunities, that are critical to being fully ready to be problem solvers in the working world, disrupted .Young people are fully immersed in the problems relevant to their communities brought on by COVID-19, but are not engaged as meaningful participants in addressing those challenges because of their age. These two issues combined are creating a crisis of opportunity where a whole generation of amazing young people are about to be left behind, especially marginalized young people who relied on these opportunities to expand their perspectives and validate their ability to do effective work. The disparate access will deeply impact young people who do not live in locations concentrated with resources and opportunities to support them.
In response to this problem, Grace created a summer program called Design for Equitable Systems, which includes a digital open-source curriculum to help young people create change in their communities using the principles of design for systems change. Through this design for impact curriculum, Grace worked with about 100 young people from across the country to support their efforts, from mental health access on college campuses, to addressing political polarization to transportation inequities.
Much of the project was focused on advancing the capacities of the students engaged, and thus Grace learned a lot from them in their pursuits of justice. Their struggles were palpable as they struggled to make sense of a world that didn't fully value their commitment to justice and equity. “I think it really takes meeting people where they are at in their journeys, and ensuring they have the necessary support to continue and persist despite the barriers. I am excited to continue to expand these efforts to allow young people to have the tools they need to make significant differences in their communities,” Grace notes.
Grace adds that through this project, they learned that, "despite the barriers, young people will power through and make their visions happen. With the right support, they can just blossom and feel even more committed to making a difference in their communities."
To learn more about Design for Equitable Systems, check out their website.
Grace recently contributed to the #Rebuild100 blog . Read their post.