Thanks to my village, I’m #ready.

My name is Kiara Page and I’m a senior at Barringer High School. After I graduate this month, I’ll begin the Educational Opportunity Fund program at Montclair State University, where I’m going to study psychology. When I think about my high school experience, three words come to mind — exciting, busy, and educational. These past four years have connected me to other students, to my passion for social justice and youth advocacy, and, most importantly, to my future as a college student — the first in my family.

They say it takes a village, and it’s true. As a first generation college student like me, you need a large support system to make it through high school, navigate the college application and enrollment processes, and feel prepared for the future. For me, this support system was both inside and outside of Barringer. For three years, I was part of the Sadie Nash program – a sisterhood academy where I learned about social injustice, how to be a leader, and, through Nash U, the different types of scholarship and grant opportunities available to students. Through the Gem Project, I expanded my passion for social justice. After studying mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline, I created an art installation and hosted an art gallery with my peers where we had an open discussion about the art and the social justice topics. This helped me to build friendships and bonds and strengthened my village. I was also part of Newark Youth Court, dealing with actual students and issues like truancy. This helped me realize that everyone doesn’t go through the same thing. People have different experiences and traumas, but it’s important to bring people together and try to understand.

Outside of school and my after-school activities, my parents helped round out my village. I’m so glad that my Mom was involved. She attended every conference and meeting and advocated for me and for my future. This made me realize how much she cares about what I’m doing in life. Also, my mom was a role model for other parents. She became part of their village, and motivated other parents to get involved and learn more about the school and what’s going on.

There is a sense of urgency in the country today, especially among young people like me. We are the next generation. Students complain about politics, our leadership, and the state of education. But they’re not as involved as they could be to make a difference. We can all take action in different ways, even if it just means spreading information, attending a protest or an event, and using your social media platforms to speak your mind. We need to motivate all young people to take those steps and most importantly, to vote.  I’m registered to vote and I’ve already voted — in the Newark Board of Education election this past April.

I am so grateful to be able to participate in Project Ready’s #1000CarePackages initiative and give back to the village that has shaped who I am today. I hope I can make a difference and help make our city, state, and our country a better place in the future. I’m ready for college, and ready to tackle my future and turn my passion for social justice into action.