Mekelzum, an eighth grader in New York, recently told the story of how she found her voice through Citizen Schools at TEDWomen, a conference in New York City. Joined by the Executive Director of Citizen Schools New York, Mekelzum shared how she sees herself as a future leader and depended on Citizen Schools and community volunteers to help her "get back on track." Read Mekelzum's speech below. My family comes from Mali in Africa. I’m happy to be here because my mom and I both believe that I can have a better life here through receiving a better education. My mom wasn’t able to continue school after the 6th grade. I’m delighted to be standing here as a proud 8th grader attending Isaac Newton middle school for Math and Science. Some of my favorite parts of Citizen Schools were the apprenticeships. At the end of each semester, students are required to present their work to large audiences of people. It can be very scary to stand up and talk in from of so many people, but here I am doing it again today!
In my first semester, we went to Google to present a business plan that we designed through an entrepreneurial apprenticeship. Our business idea was to create a healthy fast food restaurant where athletes were going to be on deck to motivate people to make healthy choices. In a law apprenticeship, I was responsible for representing the defendants in a mock trial that we argued in front of a federal judge in a courthouse. I know now that public speaking skills are necessary for the kind of career I want to pursue. I had always thought I wanted to be an obstetrician, but through Citizen Schools I found a voice inside of me and I plan to create my own business someday for people who are out of work and who need a job. This is all apart of being a strong young woman.
In humanities, I’m learning about the Women’s Suffrage movement from the 1920’s. I’m really interested in one woman, Susan B. Anthony, who was a powerful woman and leader in that movement. When I think about the fact that women had to fight just to get the same basic rights as men, it makes me realize that in some ways women have to be even stronger than men to just have an equal playing field. I see myself as a leader someday like Susan B. Anthony and I understand what skills and passion I need in order to get there. When I loose my footing, there are people around me, like Citizen Schools volunteers and staff, who help me get back on track. You could be one of those people.