My name is Titilayo Aluko and I am an SSLAer, class of 2020. Last year, I was offered the opportunity to become a STARS CGI Fellow and I am grateful that I stepped out of my comfort zone and took advantage of this opportunity of a lifetime. I would 100% recommend that other PowerPlay participants and other young women in NYC become a STARS CGI Fellow. You get to meet young people from different backgrounds, and we celebrate each other and embrace each others’ gifts and differences.
A little bit of background, PowerPlay is the lead agency for a coalition of 10 non-profit organizations that supports girls and GNC youth overcome barriers to success. Each year, they host these amazing activations for youth across all 10 programs to gather, learn, grow and practice self-care together. 2020 was tough on all of us, given the global pandemic, transitioning to virtual learning, political unrest, etc. STARS CGI saw the need for a safe space for youth to amplify their voices and launched the STARS CGI Fellow program, which identified 30 young leaders from their collective programs that would lead two Town Halls with members of the NYC Council.
I was a part of the first cohort – 15 young people spanning 5 STARS CGI organizations and we came together and brainstormed a variety of topics that we’re interested in discussing on a larger platform, with members of the New York City Council. Ultimately, we decided on Education Equity! We met bi-weekly for 6-weeks to ideate, and brainstorm and plan out a TownHall that we (the Fellows) would lead our peers in conversation about. When I say lead, I mean EVERY aspect of this Town Hall was youth-led – from the intros to the conversations with the Councilmember, to the breakout room sessions. This was truly the most memorable moment, as we were able to let our hair down and celebrate the hard work that went into preparing for that particular day. We knew that the people who attended the Town Hall took something away from what we were saying and that was the biggest reward.
I am so proud of the young people that I met, and was able to work with. I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity in age, gender, and background by the people that I was able to work with. We all spoke so passionately and eloquently about what we had to say. As a student activist, there are not a lot of people who are willing to stand up for what they believe in and speak their truth because of fear of being judged and for many other reasons.
This experience has amplified my advocacy efforts, I am a lot more vocal when speaking on issues I am passionate about. I have continued my advocacy efforts in pushing to have more students in my schools’ equity team. I have been the only student representative, having served since my Sophomore year, and now feel that more voices should be included in these conversations about curriculum, how to make the school a better place, and get students more engaged because my experiences differ from other students at the school. I spoke up about this and was able to have three additional students added to the school’s Equity team. There is so much more work to be done but I know the steps I am taking now are leading to changes being made for the better, and I am proud of that.