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Young Trailblazer Nominee

Jevon McKinney

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Nominated By Melva Hall

“Jevon is currently the senior class president at Widefield High School. He has involved his fellow student in various activities with bonding activities to help keep positive spirits during this pandemic. He even used his media skills to help provide senior pictures for students who could not afford them. Jevon’s community service include volunteering for the soup kitchen, singing in his church choir where he is the youth leader. In this role, he helped organize local food drives as well as a toy drive for underprivileged youth with lower income or incarcerated parents. He is a part of Link Crew a program that mentors younger students adjust to Widefield High School. Lastly, he serves an ambassador for the African American Leadership Conference Council Advisory and the Educating Children of Color Leadership Academy. I strongly believe that it is in Jevon’s character to continue his commitment to his education and community involvement. He found ways in the mist of this pandemic to create and respond to the needs of his fellow classmates while practicing safety.”

My Black Colorado Interview

What are you involved with in school and the community?

I am a student ambassador for the African American Youth Leadership Conference, and we take kids from predominantly black and minority communities who don’t usually get as many privileges or as many opportunities as other families would get to find careers and connections. We find things that they are passionate about and put them in an environment where they can not only talk to other black leaders in the community, but other people who are similar in the interest or maybe even help them find a passion and move forward on. So, my job for that is I go with my school district around my community and I find kids who are in those situations, encourage them to come to the conference and I bring them there. I also help create programs and classes that I believe my age group would be interested in.

How did you get connect and involved with the African American Youth Leadership Conference?

Being an Afro Latino youth myself and growing up in this community I wasn’t particularly able to access [resources] like other African-Americans were, but I still wanted to find ways to get educated and get more involved in my community and what I want to do in terms of a career path. So I think members of my church at who are regular members of the other program at the Conference, saw me and said, “You seem like a kid who is really dedicated and wants to help out.” Then they told me about the Conference, who was involved in it and what I could do there. I was taking dance classes, classes about African American culture and music classes, too, and I just instantly fell in love with it. And I wanted to give that same experience – or at least help give that same experience to other youth.

How long have you been involved with the Conference?

I’ve been involved since all my freshman year of high school and I’ve been a full-on student ambassador since my junior year, so about two years that I’m closing in on that now.

Has it inspired you to get connected or involved with anything at your school or any other areas?

Of course. Outside the Conference I’m also a student ambassador for Educating Children of Color, which is similar in finding opportunities for everybody regardless of their race who don’t get educated to find information about how they can get to college and find a clear career path. But in terms of helping out outside of the community, I’m the senior class president at my school. So not only am I using that connection to get more kids into that program, I’m using it to help out in the community just in general things as well. For example me and my vice president, we want to come together for senior picture and due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that it’s affecting African American communities that don’t have funding to get professional pictures done, we wanted to give at least a few students the opportunity to be able to come in and have a few of our photographers come in and take pictures of them for free around the school just to help them out and give them some support.

What are accomplishments you are proud of?

In terms of other accomplishments, of course, it was being elected for student council president by the fact that my peers were able to believe in me and know that I could do a good job with the school and help them out, that just gave me a sense of pride. Now in terms of just my personal interest I’m also a very prominent musician. I can sing, I play alto saxophone, and guitar. I’ve also been given a superior rating from Solo and Ensemble by CHSAA where they hold these competitions for them and then I got accepted into The Lynx National Arts and Media program at CU Denver.

Tell me more about the Lynx program

The Lynx National Arts and Media program is at CU Denver and they have students from pretty much from across the country come in and audition for a chance to make it into the program and it’s like a summer program I was accepted into..

What do you think others would say they like about you the most?

I would say in terms of me personally, what they like about me most is my dedication, my comments, but it would most likely be my understanding. I don’t believe that you have the right to judge somebody based off the experiences I’ve had in my own life. Everybody in this world has a struggle that they’re really going through right now. Like I’d say I’m Christian, at the end of the day in our life, who are you in terms of God? Because only God can judge the actions of another human being. So really you should just be a really good person and be understanding of a situation that people are coming into. I feel like a lot of people know me for being that person who doesn’t judge and I’m just someone who can come to if you have any problems and I’ll try to understand him as best as I can.

What’s the best advice someone has given you recently?

The best advice that somebody has given me recently was– it was two pieces. One: listen before you speak about what other people have to say because, again, going back to that no judging, you don’t know what somebody’s story has been like, you don’t know what their life is like. I feel like we are so quick to judge and get our own personal grievances and opinions over somebody else’s rather than just taking the time to close our mouths, sit down, open our ears up and just listen to their story. I feel like if people really learned that life skill a lot more, a lot of relations between our fellow humans would heal a lot faster and better. That was what my dad told me that a while ago and I just took that to heart because it’s really the truth. And then the second piece was to be adaptable and accept the change. I remember, I don’t know if it’s her personal quote, but my mom told me a quote one time. It was if you want to make God laugh tell Him your life plans because you’re going to get a good chuckle out of Him. So pretty much you’re saying eventually, whether it’s the smallest or the biggest change, it will happen to your life and it’s inevitable, so it would be better now that you learn now to adapt and accept that change. Also in terms of that change if you’re waiting on something to come and it hasn’t come to you yet, or you don’t know when it comes to you, you have to be willing to learn and accept that and move forward because life isn’t necessarily going to be the fairest at times but you really do have to realize that everybody has a plan for themselves. Everybody’s working hard. Everybody is going through something at the same time too. And while it may not feel like your life is progressing or moving forward you are doing, you’re doing the best you can, you’re exactly where you’re at and you’re To make it through it. There’s a new day, the sun always comes out tomorrow God willing and you’re going to move forward.

What’s one thing that you want to get better at?

I’d say one thing that I need to get better at is appreciating the blessings and little things I’ve been in my life. I feel like my schedule is as busy as it is and the things I want to do, I have tunnel vision on a lot of things. So sometimes I can get so focused on what I’m doing that I don’t look around and see that I have a home over my head, I have two parents that may not be together, but they are still willing and participating in my life and love me dearly. I also have friends that care about me and I have a community that has given me so many chances and so many opportunities. I think I just need to sit back and appreciate that this life, so full of blessings, was given to me. Because at the end of the day The things that I’m doing or the things I have been given can be given to anybody else at any time. I know that life can be difficult sometimes but if you really just focus on the positivity and the real good blessings that we have going on in our lives, I think it would just be a complete life improvement or make life so much easier.

What do you think the adults need to hear to help them connect better with the younger generation?

I think it still plays out with the listening point where it’s just listening to and acknowledgement of their lives. It’s the same thing about coming from a point of understanding– no judgment and acceptance. So I think [the younger generation] might not have this much experience as the older ones that they have really still have a significant part of their lives that affect them as a human and that should be accepted. For example, mental health in Millennials and Gen Z is talked about and treated way more than it was in my parents’ and grandparents’ generations when they were going through something they were just told, “Suck it up. You’ll be fine. It’s all in your head.” I feel like they can still get locked in that mindset and treat younger children the same way. So, it’s more acknowledgement of your child’s struggle and their life experience. And then it was one more thing, it’s really about understanding the child also has Intelligence. There’s a difference between intelligence and world experience. Don’t get me wrong you need both, but intelligence needs to be respected in the same way, too. I’d say one thing that I’ve really noticed is that the right of knowledge has never made more powerful in the hands of the youth than in this current generation because we have the information age and digital media that’s completely accessible to us. Just like in the recent protests for George Floyd or the others who were wrongfully killed  and victims of police brutality that it was a very strong presence of Gen Z’s and that was really one of the first times we were able to show how intelligent some of our kids are, look how we were able to come together over the course of a pandemic where we were all divided come together using social media and digital media and still gather in protest for change, and change did come, too. Progress is happening. We still need more change, obviously, but we will really inspire progress and to get progress moving. I don’t think a lot of adults really realize the power of knowledge that Gen Z really have so I think understanding that the youth really do have a say and really do have power in this generation.

What do you want to do for your career?

I really do want to get into media communications or media journalism and just something like multimedia in general because through my experiences helping my community and helping my school and learning through music, I’ve talked to a lot of people from every different background of life I’ve heard stories of passion, sadness, and regret and a lot of these stories really do deserve to be heard. This information really does need to be passed on to other people that would, again, have a better understanding of other people’s life and their struggles and acceptance of others. So. I think that’s really what I want to focus on is using media as a platform to share other people’s stories and be that person that’s the source of information for the stories that connects one another because media is a very powerful tool. I think there’s this industry standard of media I’ve seen that sometimes it doesn’t become about the people anymore—it’s about the clicks and revenue. I’d say if I really want to progress that I want to be the person that challenges that stereotype.

What year are you in school? And what are your aspiring colleges to attend?

Right now I’m a senior at Widefield High School. I’m looking at CSU Fort Collins, University of Denver, and University of Northern Colorado. I think I need to see where Covid goes in terms of that because Colorado Springs will always be my home but I think right now in order to get a broader view of the world around me really just learn and experience everything I can.

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