Until the last year or so,
didn't consider herself much of an advocate. The 17-
year-old junior at Soulsville Academy, who's given name is Ja'Lin, says she was always too reserved for that.
"I'm socially shy," she said, "and I get nervous in front of people."
But she found her advocate's voice as a member of the Girls Inc. of Memphis Youth Farm crew, which she joined last summer. It was there that she learned about the ongoing fight against a proposal to expand a construction-debris landfill in Frayser - and it woke her up.
"The idea of a bunch of garbage next to a school and across from our farm, it struck a chord with me," Leo says. "If it's not O.K. to put it in your neighborhood, why would it be O.K. to put it in ours?"
, a junior at Ridgeway High School, also freed her inner advocate thanks to her involvement with Girls Inc.
In Girls Inc., my confidence has definitely grown," Jada says I've always been real outgoing. But Girls Inc. has taught me to speak my mind respectfully."
Leo and Jada's advocacy is already bearing fruit.
Thanks to countless concerned citizens from Frayser - including Leo and other Girls Inc. girls - the landfill proposal was defeated by a unanimous vote of the Memphis City Council on Jan. 9.
Thanks to Jada, Girls Inc. currently has a direct representative on the Girls Action Network, a national advisory and mobilizing group made up of young women from Girls Inc. affiliates across the country.
Both girls presented at the inaugural Bridge Builders Youth Action Summit in February. And both took part, with youth from across the city, in the recent
March for Our Lives
here in Memphis. (Leo is quoted at the end of this
Commercial Appeal account
of the march.)
Read more about these two remarkable young advocates on our website!