Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Ambassador and 2015 Gold Award recipient Grace Wickerson talks about her award-winning program, Kickin’ Violence; the importance of youth leadership; and her vision for the future.
Editor’s note: Founded in 2013 by Grace Wickerson, Kickin’ Violence is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower youth to eradicate violence through education, service, and martial arts. It is one of the first national anti-violence organizations lead by and for youth.
I never planned on making Kickin’ Violence anything more than my Girl Scout Gold Award project. While I realized the importance of non-violence advocacy, I felt as if I had done “enough.” My project had seen great success, impacting countless people in Sarasota County, and was sustainable. Yet, on a whim, I applied to Youth Service America‘s National Child Awareness Month (NCAM) Ambassador Program fully expecting to be rejected.
To my surprise, and utter joy, I was made the NCAM Ambassador for Florida. From that point on, I became a part of a supportive family and network of 50 other remarkable young leaders. I also became a representative of an organization that is trying to erase the invisible stigma against young leaders. I am committed to empowering youth everywhere to take the small steps, or even significant strides, toward a more equal, peaceful, and sustainable planet. I’ve realized that I still have a lot more work to do to eradicate violence, especially against women and LGBTQ+ people.
Now, with the support of my school board signaling further expansion of Kickin’ Violence into my local community; the National Child Awareness Month Youth connections that will spur national growth; the formation of a Youth Advisory Board; and the recognition as a National Jefferson Award Winner for Peace and Justice that will help us scale our service projects to impact 100,000 violence survivors and educate millions on how they can take a stand against violence; the future of this organization is bright.
The success of Kickin’ Violence in just the past year has exceeded far beyond my expectations. I have made a difference in the lives of thousands in my own community. And now, I can maximize that impact to millions through my partnership with the National Jefferson Awards Foundation. I find it remarkable that I even considered giving up my fight. I can’t imagine what my life would be like right now without Kickin’ Violence. Building this organization over past three years has made me realize how much I have to give to those around me and how much good I can do just by taking action.
I believe that young people are not only the future, but they are also the “now.” Our age does not limit our ability to make a substantial difference in the world. I have learned how to work better with other leaders as well as how to inspire others to take on leadership roles. We will only be able to overcome the enormous challenges that we face, like extreme hunger, food scarcity, gender inequality, and climate change, together. These issues should not divide us, but rather, unite us. The intersectionality of many of these issues means that current and future leaders in these movements for a more sustainable future will need to know how to work with one another for the benefit of all. These leaders will also need to understand that they alone, no matter the size of their pockets or scope of their influence, will need the voices of the millions of individuals who have not yet been mobilized to lead. I realized that a leader’s impact should not be measured by how many followers they have, but by how many others they inspire to lead.
That is why I am hosting my Anti-Violence Advocacy Workshop on April 23, 2016, at the Gulfcoast Event and Conference Center in Sarasota. I am leaving for college soon (in just over three months), but I do not want to see Kickin’ Violence lose momentum in Sarasota County. I am prepared to train a new group of leaders to take my place. They will be the voice for eradicating violence against women as well as the inequalities between people that cause violence to occur. I cannot wait to work with everybody that day and feel energized by the power of the upcoming generation. Together, we will be able to give our country a virtual “kick” in the right direction.
Editor’s note: For more information on Kickin’ Violence, or to register for the April 23 workshop, please visit www.kickin-violence.org.