Gateway Student Empowerment Project

I developed and implemented a platform to organize student leaders and train them to become change agents for their school and community.

Photo of Aniya Betts
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Written by

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

June 29, 1999

Help us stay in touch!

(314) 473-4524 2506 N Sarah St Missouri: Saint Louis (63113)

Date You Started Your Project Started

August 15, 2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Students lack a sustainable system that teaches them how to lead and enact change. Our youth devalue our education system because of its inequitable approaches to learning. Some of this is because of poverty and the lack of representation in our systems to educate that the needs of our inner city or black and brown students are neglected and dictated as a result creating the environments that foster the violence and low performance among students

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We have developed a system to train students to become change agents for their school and communities by having students start student empowerment organizations at their high school. Students will participate in an immersive guided experience where they will learn both the comprehension of the concept of leadership and varied leadership theories that will be fundamental in developing personal, organizational, and community leadership skills. This will take place in many forms such as organizing around policy changes such as curriculum, discipline, or uniforms to structural changes such as lunch menu, courses offered, or extracurricular activities. These organizations will have the opportunity to articulate and execute their vision at the table of many organizations and youth boards in Saint Louis. They will overcome the traditional challenges that face student empowerment organizations and receive the resources they need from specific partnerships we have in the community. This platform to organize a mass amount of students and sustainably input the leaders we need in our communities will create a network for empowering students so that youth can create the change they want to see.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

To be honest this project sprang out of an idea that was developed after the Ferguson Unrest. I noticed once the cameras were gone and the dust settled the youth had no direction and no real guidance of the next steps. So while growing up in this movement I decided that I will become the change I wanted to see in my community and I wanted to see our youth organized and leading the movement with our community’s support. After bumping my head and experiencing a number of successes I have successfully developed a way to empower students in my community and sustainably create the leaders we need for a brighter future.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

I am stepping up to make change because I owe it to my ancestors and those who came before me to fight and challenge the status quo.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When a person or group gets involved with the student empowerment project they can not only donate to helping the students with the items or funding they need but they can provide their professional and experienced input and guidance for the students and the project as a whole. So our partnership are not just our community partners but our community builders as well. For example an organization we are partnered with in Saint Louis called the IBFA not only provides us with resources but also helps with applying for opportunities such as this one.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

The closest entity that could possibly do what we do are the student governments at high schools. They fall short because student governments lack the create control given to the students to enact equitable and relevant change. Most student governments are ran by a teacher and executed by students meaning the program is already made and the students just follow. There is not one organization in Saint Louis that can consistently and sustainably create the leaders we need for our communities.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

During the pilot and testing phase I looked to see if my high school would benefit from a student empowerment organization so during my sophomore year at McClure high school a band of students and I teamed up and established our first student empowerment organization called the Vision. We experienced a number of successes and hardships. We held luncheons at our school so that administrators and students could talk about policy and programs that could better our school. We took on the challenge of hosting a fundraiser for our clubs to raise money for their events and uniforms. We brought culture to our school with a student vs teachers soccer game, a fraternity and sorority yard show, and school spirit week. What I am most proud of is getting an African American literature course and our African American History class counted for a history credit.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Aside from our students developing equitable solutions for their school and preparing them to be leaders in our communities, we plan to hold summits specifically a youth leadership summit, a youth political summit, and a youth race summit. The outcome of having these summits are that our students from all over the region will be able to convene and learn together. They will study the works and tactics of many historical black figures and team up to tackle issues together. In addition to the summits we will provide investment and entrepreneurial opportunities so our students can start building and acquiring wealth. Our students will have the opportunity to learn and develop other essential life skills through our organization.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Web/Mobile Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc) (8)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Disability community
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • T-Mobile page or contact

Attachments (1)

For the betterment of our community modle.png

This is a model that shows our outputs to the community and shows who inputs what and where.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sarah Holcomb

Hi Aniya! This project looks awesome. Students have powerful voices to challenge the status quo in their schools and communities, and it sounds like the summits you’re planning to organize will be an important incubator for collaboration and mobilization. For some inspiration I'd suggest checking out one of last year’s Changemaker Challenge winners, South Texas Ideas (, which hosts an annual youth-led ideas festival and provides platforms for youth voices. Keep up the amazing work!

Photo of Aniya Betts

Hey thank you so much, seeing the reviews and reading your comments are affirmations that I need to continue the work. Once again thank you and I’ll check it out.