As told by Destiny Watson

 

When I think back to memorable moments in my life, I think about school supplies.

Picture a community event in the Chicago area. Families and children are everywhere, many are in line—they’re waiting for something. There’s a student run volunteer club there; they’re handing out school supplies. I’m there with my friends from high school… I’m the organizer. Now, imagine a little boy run up to his mother and exclaim, “Mom look! I got a pair of scissors!”

I can’t even describe the feeling that came over me when I saw how happy this little boy was just to receive a pair of scissors. Without this community event, his family—and all the other families there—would have struggled to pay for essential school supplies. That was the moment—that was when I knew that I was doing the right thing.

I wish that everyone my age could have a memory like this. I wish, like me that day, they could feel empowered to make an impact.

Youth should feel like they can do anything they put their minds to—they should feel like they can change the world. It can be easy to think the opposite though; it can be easy for us to underestimate ourselves. There’s so much negativity aimed at younger generations; sometimes, it’s hard not to get caught up in it.

Myself, I really struggled with finding my place in high school.

Society has painted a picture of what us teens are supposed to act like; it sets these expectations for us to live up to. Sometimes, when it feels like we’re not measuring up, especially against our peers, we can start to become someone we’re not.

 

That could have been me, if I didn’t quit cheerleading and shift my focus to clubs I was actually way more interested in. It was up to me to decide where I belonged… even if that meant I needed to start my own club.

After getting involved with WE in high school, I started to think more about how I could be a change-maker. It’s like, as much as people—including myself—talk about what’s wrong with the world, it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not taking action to change things for the better.

The problem was, at school, there wasn’t really a specific club to help students do this. Homewood Flossmoor High School was in need of a platform where students could come together and talk about how we could better the community here in Chicago and afar.

That’s how my after-school club, You Matter 2, began.

I founded the WE Schools club for other motivated teens to join me and get involved in volunteering. I wanted to get other teens in my high school involved because, just like me, if they didn’t, they would be sitting on their words.

 

Our number one goal as a club was to become more aware of issues that we otherwise may not know about or discuss. It was important that members were aware of the impact youth could make if they took action on these issues—just knowing this would change their outlook on the world, which is exactly what I wanted You Matter 2 to do.

In my perspective, when youth lead action, it can sometimes have a bigger impact on our generation than if we stand by and watch adults lead action, simply because it shows other youth that they can do the same. For this reason, You Matter 2 is solely a youth run organization.

The club is still going at Homewood Flossmoor High School, even though I graduated a year ago and am now a freshman at the University of Dayton. I continue to run it from university.

At least once a month I make it back home and the group and I go to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House, which the club has been doing since 2015. When we’re there, we usually stay for around three hours, preparing meals for the visiting families.

 

It’s a great feeling knowing that I’ve been able to leave a huge impact on my high school through You Matter 2. It’s inspiring to have been able to impact people my own age. Some people have even written their college essays about being involved in the club’s service work. I feel like I’ve left a legacy—like I’ve completed a major task in my life, and I’m only just getting started.

As for what the future holds, I strongly believe that what I’ve learned from WE and the experience with my WE club, You Matter 2, will impact my career choice. Working together with others is now a lifestyle, so is leadership and volunteering—I can’t imagine doing anything else!

Someday, I hope that this lifestyle can turn into a career as an Illinois State Senator and give me the opportunity to change the state that I grew up in for the better.

 

Destiny graduated from Homewood Flossmoor High School in 2016—an educational partner of WE Schools. While a student, Destiny started a WE Schools club called You Matter 2, after an inspiring experience at WE Day Chicago. Destiny was introduced to WE while at a Demi Lovato concert that featured a guest discussion with WE Speaker Spencer West about how WE inspires youth. Currently, Destiny is a freshman at University of Dayton. 5 years from now, she intends to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Human Rights Studies, a Certificate in Applied Creativity, a Certificate in Nonprofit & Community Leadership, and a Master’s in Public Administration.