InLight is a youth-led identity and justice magazine (501(c)3), which seeks to explore cultures, lift voices, and connect students
Check out our 2019 interschool issue here (as was too large a file to upload):
This video explains our mission and impact. It was created in the 2018 summer. Since then, we have grown from involving 12 schools to close to 30, including a around hundred more unique voices and reaching thousands of more students.
An InLight cover.
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Date You Started Your Project Started
The fall of the co-founders freshman year of high school.
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
We know that our schools today are as segregated as they were in the 1960s. Yet, instead of addressing the issues that accompany this reality, many high schools continue to struggle to effectively introduce inclusion and cultural literacy tools. Instead, they use top down approaches from administrators with little student input. Schools, unable to create spaces where all voices feel valued, leave students feeling sidelined and underappreciated.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
InLight provides a space for students to narrate their own stories with the aim of creating a more empathy-driven school environment. InLight students contribute prose, poetry and artwork connected to race, culture, sexuality, social inequality and more. Articles have ranged from one student’s celebration of Diwali to another’s demand that her school hire more teachers of color. By amplifying a range of identities and experiences, InLight gives voice to unheard perspectives and becomes a cultural literacy tool.
We use our “InLight Toolkit” and ambassador network to empower students to create their own versions of InLight at their own school. Additionally, we coordinate annual inter-school issues that connect students across schools. Last year’s interschool issue united 30 public and private schools across three states. InLight encourages students to learn more about inequality and diversity at their own school and inspires meaningful student connections across schools.
The process behind creating and maintaining a school InLight branch challenges students to build teams, organize their peers and make difficult decisions. Each new InLight issue is an exercise in changemaking.
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
From kindergarten to 8th grade we attended a Jewish day school where we became excited by Jewish culture and were taught the importance of standing up against injustice.
When we switched to a non-Jewish high school, where Sam was the only student to wear a kippah, we recognized that many peers were similarly proud of their own communities. We also saw how different identities shaped student experiences. We wanted to create a platform that both explored cultures and lifted marginalized voices.
And with the more stories we published, and more experiences we learned about, the more inspired we became to spread the platform to students at other schools. We are committed to giving them the same opportunity we had to use stories to make their school environments more inclusive.
4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”
Video Link: https://vimeo.com/362710855 (not working to add video)
Because school systems are largely segregated, and people are friends with those who look or talk like themselves, stories about realities beyond own are distant or unheard.
We founded InLight to create a space for students to share those stories and bridge that gap. InLight has become a storytelling movement and connective tissue that is dedicated to building empathy and inclusivity in school communities everywhere.
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
After an insensitive comment made by a teacher, Imani wanted to write an article about the importance of diverse representation among faculty. She crafted a piece that spoke to her personal experience and included the larger significance of a diverse high school faculty. Now, students who know Imana but otherwise wouldn’t be aware of the issues she faces as a student of color, can be better informed.
Another student, Sydney, created the InLight platform at her local school. We connected her with all of the InLight’s resources, ranging from a 30-page manual to a guide on how to edit articles. Sydney galvanized contributors at her school, planned meetings with teachers, and within three months launched her first issue. The whole time she worked closely with a member from the InLight expansion team. Along the way, Sydney increased her skills in teamwork, leadership, and communication.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
InLight is a cultural literacy tool run by and for students. It recognizes that students are experts in their identity, and can lead conversations and change around inclusivity and social awareness at schools. InLight’s content is immediately accessible to students (and faculty) because it is peer to peer, not a top-down approach. And, as peers narrate their own stories, articles and art personalize distant issues. While most newspapers tell the stories of the other -- their holidays, injustices they face -- InLight looks to tell the story of the self.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
InLight is the DC’ area's largest student run magazine. With our ambassador program, and their staff of 100+ students, we engage 30 public and private schools. Last year, we printed 3,500 copies of our interschool issue and 8 schools produced their own school specific InLight publications. Since our 2015 founding, over 400 students have used InLight to tell their story through art and articles. Numerous of InLight leaders have been recognized by the prestigious Princeton Prize in Race Relations (including Sam in 2016) and the American Scholastic Press Association.
Lastly, 90% of InLight Ambassadors said InLight improved their leadership skills; 80% said it improved their organizational skills, 100% said InLight created a space for marginalized voices.
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
We have built a strong base and structure in the DC area. We are on track to reach 7,000 students through our publications this year. Now, we are ready to grow our DC area school network with larger partners and expand to Philadelphia next year. By the time we graduate college, we aim for InLight to be a national magazine.
Until now, we have gotten into individual schools through word of mouth. Now, we have verbal commitments for partnerships with Prince George’s county board of education and Montgomery County minority scholars program (both in Maryland). Other future partners include independent school associations. We will use our new 501(c)3 status to apply for larger grants. Lastly, we have built a UPenn team to expand in Philly.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Donations between $1k-$5k
How did you hear about this challenge?