Many freshmen spend their 1st year at Staples figuring out the school: what activities to get involved in, which clubs to join, that sort of thing. Leadership comes later.
Alexis Teixeira is not “many freshmen.”
Just a few months into her high school career, she’s already started a club. Already, the club has had an impact — locally and internationally.
The club is Teen Vital Voices. It’s the 1st high school branch anywhere of Vital Voices Global Partnership — a not-for-profit organization launched in 1999 by Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright to identify, train and empower women leaders around the globe.
A Vital Voices volunteer, Alexis’s mom told stories of her work. The 9th grader was intrigued by Kakenya Ntaiya, who started a school in Kenya. When Kakenya came to Westport to talk, Alexis invited several friends.
Kakenya’s vision inspired Alexis to organize a club. Teen Vital Voices aims to make a difference in Kenyan girls’ lives, through the Kakenya Center for Excellence. They assist the school financially, while befriending its students through correspondence and other activities.
Teen Vital Voices hopes to inspire similar clubs, in high schools and colleges.
This year, Staples members have heard from a State Department intern from Turkey; a Fairfield University professor from India, and Rebecca Lolosoli, who founded a safe haven village for women in Kenya.
Alexis has learned much about Africa — including the dearth of opportunities for women there. “They get married at my age,” she says. “They drop out of school. There are rapes and pregnancies, and the blame is put on the girls. They get kicked out of their homes.”
She also learned that — despite all the obstacles, and little material wealth — the girls at Kakenya have plenty of hope.
“Nobody really knows about all that here,” Alexis says. “You don’t get the connection until you hear about it, and meet people who know.”
If more Staples students knew about the Kakenya School, she says, more would help. And it’s easy: Just $27 builds one school wall.
Teen Vital Voices has held bake sales. They’ve decorated t-shirts for the girls. They’re getting the word out through email, and a Facebook page.
“It’s not easy being a group of freshmen,” Alexis admits. “But we’re trying.”
She’s also trying to get more boys to join Teen Vital Voices. “It’s not just women’s issues — it’s about people,” she explains.
In just a few months, Teen Vital Voices has made an impact on Kenyans’ lives. And on Alexis’.
“I’ve met some amazing women,” she says. “They inspire me, and give me hope.”
Which is exactly what she and her friends do, from Westport to Africa.
(For more information on Teen Vital Voices, contact Alexis: email@example.com)