Allen Bosbyshell and Mona Zahir are on a mission to make a change in Charlotte.
The two teens are a part of the youth program Wake UP!, which empowers high school students to get involved in their communities and strive for educational equality, said Nikkeia Wiler, an adult leader who helps with Wake UP!
This year, about 150 students from the Charlotte area gathered in late October for the second annual Wake UP! kickoff workshop. The students learned about each other, the history of education in Charlotte and schools in the area, said Kelley Pomis, Teach for America program director who helps with the program.
Wake UP! “was designed to inspire students,” said Mona, a senior at Vance High. “The idea is to close the academic achievement gap between schools.”
At the workshop, students brainstormed projects they could perform that would aid the community or their schools. They will work on the projects until the next Wake UP! summit March 16, Pomis said. About a dozen schools, and six colleges/organizations are participating in the project.
Mona said she helped come up with her school’s service project after observing students at Vance High. She said she noticed some students appeared to be apathetic toward their education, which created a negative learning environment for those who wanted to learn.
So, Mona’s project aims to affect middle schools students before they enter high school. She helped create a “big brother” program between Vance High and James Martin Middle. Each week, Vance students read with the middle school students and help create positive learning groups, Mona said.
“I’ve always been taught that education is the key to success,” Mona said. “If you want to be somebody, you need an education.”
Mona encourages her peers to join Wake UP! and participate in bettering the community: “As strong as Wake UP! is, it’s never going to reach its full potential without larger involvement.”
Allen, a junior at Northwest School of the Arts, said he also got involved in Wake UP! as a way to motivate his peers. At Northwest, he wants to encourage his friends to find something they are passionate about and stick to it. Allen said students often spread themselves too thin, rather than making a lasting impact in one or two projects or groups.
Other Wake UP! projects aim to help students prepare for college and establish more college visits for students, Allen said.
“It should be a natural right for everyone to have an education,” Allen said. Wake UP! students will present their projects in March in front of college representatives and educational leaders from across the region.