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Youth Mentorship Thesis - Akil

When I hear the word scholar, I imagine a specialized scientist, writing on a scroll with ink and quill, and everything looks like a renaissance painting. But what is it actually to be a scholar? What is Scholarship? In the last couple years that I have been part of a poor magazine, participating in Deecolonize Academy, summer programs, eventually living there and the youth mentorship I learned a lot. Many ideas and beliefs I was implanted with were challenged and now I walk with a different perspective. One of the most crucial concepts I learned was the idea of Poverty Scholarship. This concept challenges the mainstream idea of scholarship and it acknowledges the experience and knowledge people in struggle have.

Growing up in poverty is a constant fight for survival, crucial things like food, shelter, heat, and clothes are uncertain and coming and going. But all those who have lived and experienced this know it all too well. Homelessness specifically is one of the harshest forms of poverty. A lot of times people dealing with homelessness can’t go to school or study for certain trades because of reasons like, they won’t be accepted, no house to change or bathe, or just simply too busy surviving, looking for food and shelter. This means a lot of people get called and labeled as incompetent or illiterate.

When I read and learned more and more about the Poverty Scholarship poor people led theory. All these ideas got flipped on their head to me. The book speaks on how everyone has knowledge, how experience is one of the best teachers and people in struggle sometimes ain’t got nothing but experience. Instead of being labeled “ poor people '' or “the homeless people” this book and concept changes all those labels to teachers, construction workers, healers, artists, engineers, writers, poets and much more.

When one is in these situations of survival, adapting and learning is crucial, being creative is important. Very early on when I had just joined Poor magazine, we were doing Roofless Radio. Which is when we go out to housers communities to give out food and write workshops. We help people get their story out in their own terms and words. One thing I remember while listening to these people's stories and situations, was that these people are anything but stupid, dumb, lazy, illiterate or any other stereotypes that are placed on houses people. While I had grown up (up to this point) I had mainly heard all the hate and stereotypes that housless people get but I had never heard their perspective or stories. And just doing that alone with teach you a lot. I could have never guessed how much I would grow from just listening to someone tell their story.

All this is Poverty Scholarship. Our stories are experiences passed thru words, and experiences are knowledge. This is why it’s important to have a media platform like Poor magazine, where people who are usually silenced and unheard have a place to express and teach. Without having to worry of their words being manipulated or changed. We are all scholars, experience teaches so we all have knowledge. We are all human, all individuals with ideas, feelings and opinions, no one more than the other. It’s been four years that I have been part of Poor Magazine, because of Poor, I have grown as a person, my perspective has been widened and beliefs solidified, I have nothing but respect and gratitude for everyone is the community and hope to repay all that has been given to me.

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