Advice to the new fellows: Work hard, work early, believe in your skillets; Learn everything you can from your Active Voice mentors; Revel in every moment because it will fly by before you know it.
Despite what I have learned, I am going to break an important journalism code and begin with a cliche: All good things must come to end.
That phrase is one I chanted to myself constantly in Miami at Florida International University’s Women’s Leadership Summit in order to comfort myself in the wake of the fellowship’s last formal meeting together. Being awarded the Active Voice Fellowship truly was a good thing in the lessons it taught me and the opportunities I have been afforded because of it and now others will take my place in helping young women be confident in their own voices and prevent their censorship.
To the new fellows–Jamie, Melissa, Morgan, Naba, Savannah and Paula–I hope my words will help guide you throughout your year as Active Voice Fellows.
For my project, I taught high school girls in Austin journalism skills, storytelling through podcasts and how to edit audio using Audacity. With their new knowledge, girls as young as 14 created their own mini podcast stories about people at their schools doing something amazing. But before I could teach them to use their voices, I first had to use my own. One of the hardest parts of my project for the fellowship was convincing high schools that a random University of Texas journalism student had the skills to teach their students. I learned from my failings that the earlier you get in contact with schools and the more persistent you are, the likelier you are to get a teacher on your side. I also learned that downplaying my accomplishment and qualifications were not helping me to look humble but only came off as incompetent. Be proud of your abilities and know that you have skills worthy of any project you want to accomplish.
The Active Voice was created by and is surrounded by brilliant people just waiting to help you with whatever you need. Take their advice, ask them your questions and soak up what they tell you like a sponge! The most amazing people were by my side this year and that includes the other fellows–Sophie, Darlene, Shine and Sindhu.
Do not forget to breathe and stop to take a look around you. It has already been a year since our first congregation in Chicago and the adventures I had around different Austin high schools already feels like a dream. You are here, you did and it will all be over before you know it so revel in every moment.
Good luck Active Voice Fellows!
Of course, I want to thank everyone at the Student Press Law Center who contributed to this amazing fellowship and to Karin Flom who was on top of everything this year. Thank you to the people at SXSWedu and Florida International University’s Women’s Leadership Summit for allowing me to present my work with other amazing women in media. Thank you to the mountain-mover and life expert Stephanie Leibert for being the most amazing and insightful mentor anyone at a fellowship could ask for. Stephanie really helped me gain a new level a confidence in myself this year and I truly believe I did not deserve such a spectacular mentor. Thank you, of course, to the one and only Frank LoMonte for giving me this opportunity. Not only were you the backbone to this fellowship, but you helped all the fellows grow into better people. You are leaving the Student Press Law Center too soon and I do not know how the building will stay up without you.
Nashwa Bawab was a fellow of the Active Voice inaugural class. Over the year, she taught female high school students how to create their own podcasts. Prompting them with the question, “Who is someone at your school doing something great?” she split the group into teams and had each create 2-3 minute podcasts about students, faculty, or staff. By teaching them these skills and giving them this project, she was able to give girls interested in media some knowledge about the field as well as a platform to use their own voice — literally!