In January 2006, I began my job at Global Kids. I was the second full time staff member working in what’s called our Online Leadership Program, trying to figure out what value new media could add to our mission of youth development and empowerment around global issues. During one of my interviews for the job, I asked Barry Joseph, director of GK’s online programs, where he saw the program in five years. He replied quickly and unapologetically, stating that it wasn’t really possible to know, that the world of new media was developing so quickly and in so many different directions that it would be too hard to predict what would prove to have potential in terms of our mission.
It’s almost five years later now, and I’ve had an incredible opportunity here at Global Kids to explore so many of those unknown possibilities that Barry was alluding to as he hired me; using social networks for social impact, training youth to conduct peer education in virtual worlds, teaching social issue game design and creating new afterschool programs around DIY media production. After doing so much meaningful work, I’ve decided that it’s time that I moved on and took my next steps outside of the nurturing professional environment that this organization has provided for me over the years.
I’ve always said to myself that I would only leave my job under a couple of conditions: either I’d stopped being able to contribute something meaningful and unique the organization, or I’d stopped learning and growing myself. I’m thankful that neither of those is actually the case now, though our learning culture here at Global Kids is, in a very positive sense, a big contributor to why I’m leaving.
In my work here, I was not only challenged to constantly learn new things to be effective, but was also almost immediately thrown into larger national and international conversations happening about learning, youth culture, civic engagement and new media. At the end of the day after writing curriculum, running youth programs, or conducting professional trainings, I’d find myself riding home on the subway reading white papers and books about situated learning in video games, the future of Internet, or how civic life is changing online. And so after spending years at Global Kids collaborating with researchers in these areas, I’ve decided to spend some time stepping back from solely being a practitioner to engage in research myself.
In the Fall, I’ll begin work towards a PhD in Learning Sciences at Indiana University, where I plan to study how the rich informal learning that youth are engaging in through online participatory cultures can shed light on how more formal learning institutions like afterschool programs, libraries, museums and schools are designed as learning spaces. As a society, we’re on the cusp of revolutionary changes in the ways young people learn, and I hope to do my part through my research to help learning institutions not just keep pace but wholly change their practices to ensure that we’re creating the conditions in today’s youth for a more just and equitable society tomorrow.
I know that I can’t do justice here to all the things that I’ve loved about working at Global Kids. I feel like I’ve accomplished and contributed a lot here, working on more projects than I can count with more organizations that I can think of. I’ve worked both in the schools here in New York as well as through online communities like Second Life where I’ve run programs with youth that have inspired and humbled me, individuals that made me wish that I’d had such dedication to the broader world when I was in high school. I’ve moved certain areas of our work forward because of the freedom that I’ve been given to do so, and gained valuable skills through the diversity of initiatives we engage in. Most importantly, the work that I did here as I showed up day after day kept me passionate and dedicated, and know that there were important lessons we were learning as we engaged in often uncharted waters.
None of the work that I’ve done would be possible without an incredible team of colleagues and friends that I’ve had to the opportunity to work with at Global Kids. I’ve learned more than I could have imagined from the bright and committed people that this organization attracts, and I want to say thank you to all of you. A special shout out, of course, goes to Barry Joseph, my boss and de facto mentor for my tenure here. Barry’s sense of playfulness and adventure combined with an energy to create and accomplish have made the culture of our team singular, and he’s taught me more than anyone else about what it means to be a professional.
I know that this work will go on in unexpected ways in the coming years, and looking on from the outside will certainly be tough. I wish Global Kids so much luck and know that by continuing to work in solidarity with our youth you all will continue to have lasting impact.