AARUSHI MACHAVARAPU is fighting to promote equality and intersectionality
"Through NEXT, I have gained insightful skills on how to pursue my activism goals by embracing my young age and using it to defeat the stereotype surrounding youth and their goals. I have often felt embarrassed and undervalued when talking to adults about my social impact organization or the goals I have in place to help promote equality and intersectionality; but as a fellow for NEXT, I learned to turn all my doubts into determination to succeed and educate others about social impact.
From the very first time we called, Aditi made me feel important and worthy of fighting for change, despite me being a junior in high school. She listened to all of my unorganized thoughts and list of things I wanted to accomplish, and helped me narrow down what I actually wanted to put my time and effort towards. My thoughts were never dismissed and always valued by Aditi, which made me more driven to take action. After every meeting, I left with new advice and strategies on how to pursue activism successfully. Every week, I learned more and more about how I can pursue my goal to help others engage in conversation surrounding social impact topics that are often avoided. This mentorship allowed me to explore territories and ideas that I often limited myself from thinking about, and helped me understand that I can plan and do exactly what I want to. Besides coming out of this mentorship with a new drive to succeed, I gained a friend and mentor who I could talk to about anything.
The team at NEXT is extremely committed to actively engaging with and mentoring youth. Rather than simply giving me advice on what I could do and the steps I could take, Aditi became actively involved in helping me plan and research what I set out to accomplish- this is something I haven’t gained from any other mentorship experience I have had. I wasn’t just calling Aditi once a week, we were consistently communicating on new ideas or updates about the action plan I was following to accomplish my goal. This enabled me to make progress every single day, not just every Saturday when we called. The mentorship process at NEXT has impacted me in ways other mentorships haven’t- I have found the connection that was established between two young people enabled more trust and personal growth due to the relatability we had, rather than a more forced relationship that would have been established with a professional in the workforce. I know the knowledge I have gained cannot be replicated by any other organization because NEXT truly works to ensure every fellow is having an optimal experience with their mentors.
Overall, my experience with NEXT and Aditi taught me more than I could have gotten out of any other mentorship. I came in feeling nervous, hesitant, and ineffective in my efforts, but I have left feeling strong, capable, and excited about the future. I am extremely proud to be an NEXT Fellow, and know that I have come out of the experience equipped with many more skills I can use to fight for social justice."
- Aarushi Machavarapu, Winter '17 Fellow