Have you ever made a difference in someone's life? I'm not talking about giving a homeless person your change as you exit a restaurant. Not that the gesture means any less, but I'm talking about perspective. I'm talking about something that's going to last longer than the time it takes to spend that few dollars. Have you ever watched the look in someone's eyes go from uninterested and uninspired to fierce and determined?
I've seen these changes occur firsthand both in myself, and in people around me. Specifically when I got the opportunity to lead a group of youth hailing from a wide range of places such as Hong Kong, New York and South Africa, to train a crowd of their peers in Powered By Service. On June 21, 2012, 150 youth from Usher's New Look Foundation took over Atlanta and trained more than 500 youth to be certified in Powered By Service, a certification that is backed by Emory University.
When I arrived at the Powered By Service training with my youth leaders in tow, ready to educate some of Atlanta's best and brightest, I felt strangely calm. Here I was, with a bunch of kids looking up to me, and the thought didn't make me blink twice. What I did notice was that this person who was in control and a role model for these kids was a far cry from the shy and timid 13-year-old girl who was just thrilled to have been accepted to participate in Usher's Camp New Look, now known as the New Look Leadership Academy, all those years ago.
A couple of years ago, I was what could be considered an at-risk youth. The oldest of seven children, my family was living way below the poverty line. Back then, I figured the only way I would be able to help my family was to become the first in my immediate family to graduate from high school, then get some big record label executive to hear me sing, sign me to a deal and I'd be able to take care of my family. The end.
Then, I attended "Camp New Look."
The camp opened my eyes to so much, and changed my entire perspective on life. When I attended that camp for the first time in 2006, I was shy, quiet and fearful of doing or saying anything except what I thought I was supposed to. I would have never taken a stance on an issue, much less feel like I could do something about things that I felt were wrong. Now, almost seven years later, I am a leader, a role model, and two years away from graduating from college.
I say with raw honesty that had I not attended New Look all those years ago, I'm not sure that I would have realized that even back then, I needed to be a leader. I had six little people looking up to me (my siblings), but at the time I never thought to see it that way. If it wasn't for New Look, I don't think I would have realized that the only real way to end the cycle of poverty in my family was to set the example for my younger siblings by going to school, and becoming a leader in my community and family.
It feels good to have a voice, and an opinion; when people value that opinion it is an even more amazing feeling.
New Look is more than a 501c3 that I'm a part of; New Look saved my life.
My name is Jasmine Pollard, I am 20 years old, and a Mogul In Training for Usher's New Look Foundation.