Defying Perceived Limitations: Lessons from a BLTN NextGen Internship

Feb 11th, 2019 | By | Category: BLTN NextGen, Featured, Winter 2019

Dewight Leupp
2018 BLTN NextGen Summer Intern
University of New Mexico

The capacity and willingness to learn is great among my generation.  I know we can influence the next generation to be agents of change. I had a chance to build and test this theory this summer as an intern for the BLTN Next Generation Leadership Network at the Vermont campus of the Bread Loaf school of English

I came to be the NextGen intern by the recommendation of Dixie Goswami,  and with approval from the rest of the BLTN staff, including Emily Bartels, Director of the Bread Loaf School of English. Dixie and colleagues came to know my work through the Navajo Community Health Outreach, a project within COPE that has helped to empower Navajo youth “ to be agents of change within their communities by increasing their knowledge of food literacy, developing and improving their communication and writing skills, and by building a network of support and resources for students.” (NCHO Facebook page) My work ranged from giving presentations on the social action of Navajo youth, to organizing data from summer events, to documenting Bread Loaf Teacher Network events through photography, video, and social media.

I am a twenty year old college student with a documented visual disability which could have stopped me from being able to do things like this, but it has not. My experience this summer helped to build my conviction that inclusion is key no matter what race ethnicity, creed or faction or culture you identify with, and no matter what state you are in. Whether you are a person with 20-20 vision or a person in a wheelchair, inclusion is key especially for the youth of the world.

I believe that my presence and inclusion as the BLTN NextGen intern helped in a whole array of ways this past summer. I helped to show the staff of BLTN that the youth may have a somewhat better understanding of the world we live in today than one can glean solely from adults, especially in terms of the prevailing technology and social media. Youth thinking and perspective might be different,  and at times scary to adults, but at the same time it is necessary for youth to have their voices heard as it is our generation and the next that will be affected by the choices that are made now.

Some things were hard this summer. It as hard to be in a green environment, and a different time zone, and at first, at least, to get to know so many new people. I was challenged to invent this role, to define tasks that were needed, to fend off my tendency to procrastinate, and to be ready for weekly meetings with my supervisor. In taking on these challenges,  I feel like I defied my perceived limitations, and despite visual challenges, I met the requirements of this new position. I take pride in the fact that I got to model what inclusion can look like, while meeting these challenges each day.  The most rewarding part of being the NextGen intern was meeting new people who worked with the Bread Loaf Teacher Network, as well as other graduate students who were attending the School of English for the summer. Forming these relationships allowed me to make new friendships, and to understand more about people’s experiences in many different parts of the world.

As I continue my undergraduate studies, I look forward to a having a role in helping to grow the BLTN Next Generation Leadership Network by encouraging youth to build on their unique abilities, and to apply their voices and insights to positive social change.

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