Friday, October 9, 2015

The Power of Teenagers

When I wrote about Alexa Curtis a year ago, in The Power of a Teenager, I didn't know half of her amazing story.

-Started blogging about fashion and the struggles of being a teenage girl at 13.

-Was making $50 a week doing social media work while she was my sophomore biology student.

-All the while, pushing through criticism from peers and teachers and blog commenters on her weight, looks, and dreams of writing for a magazine, modelling, and working in the fashion industry.

-Then fighting for her desire to drop out of public school and get her diploma online so she could persue her dreams.

-And then that call from Rachel Ray that changed everything.

-And the thousands of emails, 1 reply for every 100 she sent, but that 1/100 that landed the TV appearance.

-The bold self-introduction to a Cosmo editor that ended with her writing for the iconic magazine.

-Her self-developed expertise in social media, from Instagram to LinkedIn.

-How people ask her today who she knew that got her into the industry.

-And her answer: No one.

-That what got her there was her passion--a passion for fashion and for empowering other young women, and her persistence--a relentless and inexhaustible determination that would send hundreds of emails for one reply, sometimes 5 to the same person that wouldn't be answered until a year later.

-That passion that burned bright before a room of students this morning, reaching out to them, caring about them, pushing them, and inspiring them.

-That passion that engaged them and brought several to the front afterwards to meet this amazing young woman--their peer.

Alexa reinforced for me today something I've been thinking about this week.

She reminded me of the absolutely tremendous potential of every single human being and every student under the roof at 85 Depot Road in Mansfield--that explosive power inside them that needs only some mysterious spark to set it burning with a fire so bright it burns through every obstacle.

It's sitting there like a pilot light, just waiting for the gas to turn on.

Alexa is evidence.

Every Depot student is evidence: every student who has already done more than their too-high ACE score predicts they should, whose successes in internships, exhibitions, and in-depth writing assignments already defies their whole history in education and troubled home lives.

The sound I heard as Alexa spoke was "Boom!"

I'm excited to see what these kids can do over the next few years, because I know they can.

And it also reminded me of the essential power of belief--belief in yourself and your own potential and the power and potential of every individual around you.

It's a belief echoed in Daniel Pink's book, Drive, when he discusses the two fundamentally different views of humanity: Type X and Type Y. One sees all humans as essentially inert without external motivation, and the other sees them all as essentially creative, powerful, and internally motivated.

Which do you see? Which will you see?

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