Temitayo Fagbenle is only 17 years old, but that doesn’t mean she’s slacking off in the changing-the-world department. After joining WNYC’s Radio Rookies program in 2012, the high school student has been working around the clock reporting on issues affecting her community. Now Temitayo is being honored as one of SparkAction’s Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers.
SparkAction, a collaborative journalism and advocacy site, chose 24 young people to make its list of youth changemakers. Given Temitayo’s resume, it’s no surprise why she made the cut. The 17-year-old has reported on hard-hitting topics such as youth violence and sexual cyberbullying.
+ Watch Temitayo’s first multimedia story.
High school graduation might be a few months away, but that isn't stopping this rookie reporter from making big plans. To find out what stories has personally impacted her, how she balances it all and how YOU can make a difference, read our interview with the shining star, below.
ACT: You were just named one of the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers. What does that mean to you?
TEMITAYO: I am honored to have been named a changemaker. But ... the title itself will remain a reminder to myself to truly live up to the "changemaker" I was named as, to make a difference.
ACT: We have to ask: What makes you a top youth changemaker?
TEMITAYO: As a rookie reporter, I am always looking for stories that can be told in a unique light from my perspective (as a teenager), and my position unfolds stories that could not have been told if not for my being a part of that world. I think my ability to take advantage of the opportunities and realities that are presented before me makes me a youth changemaker.
ACT: How did you get involved with WNYC and the Radio Rookies program?
TEMITAYO: I actually got introduced to Radio Rookies through my school. The extra-curricular bulletin board at my school had the internship listed (amongst others) and Radio Rookies was what immediately appealed to me, so I joined!
ACT: You’ve reported on stories ranging from stop-and-frisk policing to youth violence. What were the stories that really impacted you?
TEMITAYO: Every story that I've reported on has affected me in its own way. My undertaking with each has been enlightening for me, and in the end, a learning experience that has pushed me to go a step further and affect change in the issue that I have reported on.
ACT: You’ve also reported on sexual cyberbullying and online slut shaming, and you held online chats where people were able to talk about the issue. Why was that important for you to do?
TEMITAYO: The major issue that I have with sexual cyberbullying as a whole is the normalcy that has been employed to it. The idea of slut-shaming as a way to "correct" girls who have expressed their sexuality has been so built into the foundation of our society, that when people see sexual cyberbullying happening, the girl is often blamed. After my story aired we started That Could Be Your Sister, an answer to a society that perpetuates the idea that woman and girls who are, in any way, sexual should be immediately rebuked and shamed for that. TCBYS is not just a movement, it’s a mindset; we want to both educate and work towards stopping sexual cyberbullying completely.
ACT: You’ve already racked up some pretty major accomplishments. What’s next on the horizon for you? Any other issues you’d like to tackle?
TEMITAYO: We are currently in the process of starting up That Could Be Your Sister. We are planning an event for later in the summer that will tap into the enthusiasm and creativity of young people and combine their ideas to turn TCBYS into a working movement. Apart from that, I am working on a follow up-story for my initial sexual cyberbullying story, and I am also looking into reporting a story on guns in low-income neighborhoods.
ACT: You’ve got to balance school, activities, and giving back. That’s a lot of work for a high school student! How do you handle it all?
TEMITAYO: I catch up on a lot of sleep! Things are only overwhelming if you say they are; maintaining a positive outlook is key to not letting stress build up. The support I receive from my friends and Radio Rookies doesn't hurt either.
ACT: Any advice to other young people who want to make a difference?
TEMITAYO: Find an issue that you're passionate about and think of ways you can change it for the better, then do it.