Every once in a while you meet a precocious kid who you feel like you want to be when you grow up. This week, Teen Vogue introduced a national audience to one such young woman from Pittsburgh who has more gumption than most adults.
Like many, 15-year-old Taylor Allderdice student Peyton Klein was dismayed by the results of our most recent election. But unlike many, she didn’t retreat into slacktivism. “While some people turned to Facebook to air their frustrations,” Teen Vogue‘s Aura Bogado writes, “Peyton knew she wanted to express herself in a more tangible way. ‘The way I express myself is through action, and through doing something and seeing the results and making a change . . . specifically in my student community.'”
That intent manifested itself in an unexpected way.
Just after the election, Klein happened to meet Khawla, a classmate and Syrian refugee, who was having difficulty communicating with a teacher. The meeting inspired Klein to wonder how many other refugees and immigrants were attending their school. It turned out there were quite a lot. About 25 countries and 16 different languages are represented within the student body at Allderdice, Peyton told Teen Vogue.
“With that in mind, she started an after-school program called Global Minds,” writes Bogado. “Every Tuesday for about one and a half hours, 30 to 50 students get together; half of them are English as a second language (ESL) students, the other half are native English speakers. As Global Minds participants, they spend their time working on activities centered on human rights, sustainable development, international relations, and diversity. Through it all, the native-English-speaking students get to learn about other students’ cultures, while the ESL students are able to practice English. And most importantly, friendships are formed.”
When President Trump attempted to institute a travel ban, Klein made sure that immigrant and refugee students at Allderdice knew they weren’t alone. “Right after the ban,” she told Teen Vogue, “I sent a text to all the students that said, ‘You are safe. You are welcome. We love you. These bonds are here, and you’re not going anywhere. And if you need anything, we’re here.’”
If this sounds like a heavy story for Teen Vogue, it’s not. The magazine has been lauded for its recent focus on politics and social issues—a shift that was made under new editor Elaine Welteroth along with digital editorial director Phillip Picardi and creative director Marie Suter. Speaking to why the magazine has taken this new political direction, Picardi recently said on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah that, “To tell a teenager that she should stick to lip gloss when she’s being directly impacted by the policies, and they’re directly affecting her lifestyle and the lifestyle of those around her is, frankly, irresponsible.”
Klein and Global Minds also made their TV debut this week when they were featured on Today. Klein tells NEXTpittsburgh: “All the attention is exciting! My hope is that it gets people and specifically teens talking about these issues in their communities, and motivates them to take action.”