My road in life has been direct.
Kirya Traber, Talia Taylor, Chinaka Hodge, and Lauren Whitehead are mentors at nonprofit Youth Speaks.
Their goal is to empower young people to use their voices in whatever way they see fit, and to define their own destinies.
Each of these leading presenters of the spoken word arts and education programs at Youth Speaks got there in their own unique ways.
Kirya started writing when she was very young, but she'd grown up with a struggling artist mother, so she always wanted to find a "real job."
Eventually she realized that the six years she'd spent writing poetry could transform into her real job.
Lauren had to reconcile chasing what she loved-which was poetry-with meeting her family's expectations of her.
She always struggled with whether or not her art was "legitimate" if she didn't have her MFA, or wasn't making a comfortable salary.
Today, Lauren has confidence in her poetry, and she encourages all of her 16-year-old students to say, "I'm awesome, and nobody can tell me different."
Keep following my journey