Leadership, creativity, ambition…Santa Monica New Roads High School senior Amanda Gorman has it all. Not only is she the first ever Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, but Gorman is a 2015 fellow of the ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative, a selective organization focused on developing leadership skills in young women worldwide. This year, Gorman took her activism a step further by fusing her goal to empower the youth community with her love for writing, and created her own nonprofit, One Pen One Page (OPOP).
During her high school career, Gorman decided to take advantage of the leadership opportunities around her by getting involved with nonprofits, campaigns, and school clubs. Over time, she honed her skills and found a passion for social change.
Inspired by her mother’s work as an elementary school English teacher, and her own desire to encourage the writing skills of the youth in her community, Gorman created OPOP with the aim of stimulating social change by providing Los Angeles youth with creative writing and leadership programs.
Upon learning of the extremely low literacy rates of many at-risk youths in Los Angeles through her mother’s work, Gorman recognized the impact of that problem in the broader context of society. With the initial mission to increase literacy in Los Angeles abroad through various workshops, and support as well as funding from ANNpower, OPOP now strives to elevate the creative voices and leadership of young people through storytelling, according to Gorman.
“Over the past year I’ve seen such a powerful movement for the recognition of the people who far too long haven’t had the platform to share their own stories,” Gorman said. “I knew OPOP had to be a part of this growing wave.”
Gorman reflected on OPOP’s progress this year, describing the organization as an idea transformed into reality. She said she has high hopes for its future, even finding she needs to remind herself to slow down with her ambitious expectations.
“I have to maintain a more realistic side that reminds myself, ‘Amanda, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and developing a nonprofit takes time, patience, and mistakes,’” Gorman told The Mirror. “A lot of that ‘slow-down’ wisdom comes from my mom.”
Amanda was recently given the opportunity to aid in planning the “Power Up with Malala” event in Los Angeles on July 22, where Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai will bring together inner-city youth to address equality, education, and female empowerment. In addition to lending her voice as a teenage girl to the event’s development, Gorman launched her own “#wepowerup Poetry Contest,” created a social media initiative aimed at speaking out about girls’ empowerment, and will be performing poetry.
“I want the #wepowerup challenge to positively add to the global dialogue on gender equality by encouraging youth to share their voices,” Gorman said. “Those voices are too integral in this problem to be silenced.”
Gorman said she encourages young people to pursue their passions, and has her own personal goals for the future.
“As I move into college, my biggest hope is that OPOP will become this tool other students can use to empower themselves and their neighborhoods,” Gorman said.
To learn more about OPOP head to: onepenonepage.org