September marks my twelfth month as a peer mentor at Teen Innovators, and I have learned so much from my experience with this wonderful company. When I first heard about Teen Innovators, I wondered what it was and why I should join. What stood out for me was that Teen Innovators is a company run by teens and for teens. We, the peer mentors, meet virtually, one-on-one with younger teens in middle school and high school. We strive to meet the student where they are, whether on a connection or leadership track. Meeting via Zoom, we discuss anything from what high school life is like, to how to reduce the amount of plastic used every day. Teen Innovators is a welcoming and inspiring space for young teens to both develop their big ideas about how to make the world a better place, and also connect with peer mentors, whose closeness in age facilitates a quick connection, and the opportunity to learn more about what’s to come in near-future years.
Meeting with these younger teens has had a profound effect on me during these past several months. Through our meetings, I have formed meaningful bonds with the younger teens. Recently, I was able to help guide two students through their participation in the Chicago Student Invention Convention. We met weekly to discuss their inventions and polish their presentations. When meeting with another student, we discussed ways to promote more racial equality in the world on both a large-scale level and a day-to-day basis. I also met with a teen on the connection track, and we had a lovely conversation, sharing funny stories from school and discussing our hobbies.
Through these experiences, I was surprised at how much I have developed both personally and professionally. By meeting with teens and guiding our conversations, I have become immensely more comfortable talking with new people. I have grown in confidence by sharing at our free-to-the-public ‘Tuesdays with Teen Innovators’ sessions. I have also learned what it takes to begin and maintain a startup company, such as the importance of communication and planning that has been key for keeping Teen Innovators running and growing, especially in this virtual world. I have also developed skills in marketing and learned that keeping up with trending TikToks is not as easy as it sounds! Through both the business and mentoring aspects of the company, Teen Innovators has created a space for me to grow as a leader, as well as make a significant impact on younger teens’ lives.
My time at Teen Innovators has taught me the value of feeling fulfilled and on-purpose in my work. Ultimately, that feels like success to me. Helping younger teens as they look for their own sense of fulfillment and purpose in life, while experiencing that for myself, has been the biggest gift of all.