To celebrate and explore the potential of student leadership, Teach For All is collecting and sharing stories from across the network and around the globe. When students LEAD, we all LEARN.

Teach For America

The Intersection

Student Leaders
Ifetayo Kitwala and Akiel Owens
Adult Supporter
Anastasia Marouani
Age of Students
17 and 18

Please describe how your students exercised their leadership and the impact they had.

The Intersection has nominated two students for the conference as we believe that they have powerful stories to share and unique perspectives to bring.

Ifetayo Kitwala:
Ifetayo has been with The Intersection for four years. She often says, "The Intersection story is my story." Indeed, she is strongly suited to represent us in Bulgaria because she has been a part of our journey as an organization every step of the way: for every piece of legislation we passed, for every neighborhood we canvassed, for every fundraiser we've held, for every speech we gave at City Hall. Ifetayo is a hard-working and driven leader, and a skilled community organizer. She has a more thorough understanding of structural oppression in Baltimore than most adults I know, and she has more determination and discipline than any student I've worked with. She played an instrumental role in passing the MD Dream Act and the MD Firearms Safety Act in 2013 as she led her peers to door-knock on hundreds of doors during our campaign. This summer, Ifetayo has distinguished herself as our lead youth organizer in our efforts to pass the Children and Youth Investment Act, a bill that will allocate 31 million dollars to youth services in Baltimore. Ifetayo led our 16 student leaders in our canvassing efforts, and in the past three weeks The Intersection has knocked on 860 doors, gained 224 new supporters for the bill and registered 56 voters.

Akiel Owens:
Akiel is equally deserving of this opportunity. Akiel is embodies perseverance in the face of daunting odds. He is the product of a failing school system and yet, has managed to be successful in spite of it. Akiel grew up in a single parent household, in a neighborhood where broken glass, gun shells, and dirty needles pave the ground. He spent part of 1st grade sitting home alone, waiting for the school district to enroll him in his zone school. After that, he found himself perpetually behind, unable to make up for the foundational skills he lacked. Despite being continuously unable to grasp the content presented by his teachers, Akiel fiercely pursued opportunities to access a better education. He now attends Bard High School Early College in Baltimore and challenges himself to take 10 college classes a year as a junior in high school. Akiel not only wants to change his life trajectory, he also wants to make a difference in other people's lives by eliminating some of the barriers youth face on a daily basis due to structural oppression. A couple of months after joining The Intersection, Akiel dedicated himself to passing the Children and Youth Investment Act. He testified in favor of the bill at City Hall, held individual meetings with city council members to gain support for the bill, and even managed to persuade Jack Young, city council president, to appoint a youth representative on the steering committee for the bill. Throughout the summer, Akiel worked with his peers to spread awareness for the bill, and his team reached the highest number of people: they knocked on 270 doors and registered 37 voters. The success of his team can be attributed to Akiel's outstanding leadership and strong will.

What role did you play in supporting your students’ leadership?

Extract from Ifetayo's application to partake in the Teach for All Student Leaders Campaign:
"I joined the Baltimore Intersection as a timid 8th grader who didn’t know who she was. I sit here writing this essay as a 12th grader, knowing that one day I will have the skills to run for an elected office. The program has taught me how to think critically, how to deconstruct the biases and prejudices that have infiltrated every layer of our society; it taught me how to develop my own voice, a very strong voice that can captivate a room full of educators, leaders, and elected officials. The Baltimore Intersection is a program that ignites. It is a program that catapults students into a world that allows them to believe in themselves and see themselves at their fullest potential. The Intersection has taken students from all over Baltimore and made them leaders, made them activists, and made them what the city needs. The Intersection has made me the person that I am today."

Extract from Akiel's application to partake in the Teach for All Student Leaders Campaign:
"I am best suited to share The Intersection's story simply because The Intersection changed my life. It changed the way I think about the world around me. I grew up not caring about the social inequalities in my city, ignorant to the fact that I had the power to make a difference by standing up for what I believed in. The Intersection challenged me and opened my eyes and mind to new opportunities. The program taught me the foundations of community organizing and power mapping, as well as developed my public speaking and leadership skills. It also expanded my understanding of local and national social justice issues. Through lessons, readings, and discussions, I was able to deepen my knowledge of institutionalized poverty, racism and injustice in America. But most importantly, The Intersection gave me the support system I've never had. They empowered me to believe I was worthy of being heard, capable of succeeding, capable of creating social change."

What did you and your students learn in this activity that will endure beyond today?

Through our program, our students learn that it takes organizing a community, as well as involving citizens in legislation at the grass roots level, in order to create social change in our city. They've internalized leadership skills, public speaking skills, analytical skills and perseverance that will last them a lifetime.