Friday, July 24 – Final Day of 2020 Tour Features Conversations with Franklin Leonard and Jennifer Wynn

Our students headed into the last day of the Tour reflecting on the many insightful conversations they’ve had and eager to learn more in the final stretch.

We began our day meeting with Franklin Leonard, a film producer, cultural commentator, professor, and the founder of the Black List. The Black List aims to celebrate and support great screenwriting and releases a yearly publication featuring Hollywood’s most popular unproduced screenplays. The screenplays of four of the past 12 Oscar Best Picture winners came from The Black List.

Franklin grew up in Georgia and went on to earn his B.A. from Harvard. He previously worked at McKinsey & Company and Creative Arts Agency. Our students asked Franklin about navigating the entertainment industry as a person of color and his favorite shows and movies to watch. Franklin encouraged our students to always ask questions and to find people in their lives they can trust when things get difficult. “Asking questions is the best way to lay bare the hypocrisy at the core of any system of oppression,” Franklin says. 

In our second meeting of the day and final conversation of the Tour, we spoke with Jennifer Wynn, Director of Education at the Obama Foundation. Jennifer leads a team to design in-person and digital learning for active citizenship. Prior to working at the Obama Foundation, Jennifer has worked at McKinsey & Company, developed courses for MBA students at NYU, and founded a middle school where she served as Director of Curriculum Management. Her passion for leadership, education, and management were clear from our conversation with her. She encouraged our students to “continue to be unapologetic” and “trust your voice and share it.” 

“You are the future and I am so thankful for that,” Jennifer said at the close of the meeting.

Following the final speaker meeting, our group huddled up one last time to reflect on their inspiring week together. When asked to describe their peers on the Tour, here’s what a few of our students had to say:

“Visionary. We know what kind of future we want and we are driven towards making that future a reality.” – Adriana, Capitol Squash

“Passionate, diverse, intelligent and driven students who will most definitely be the strong leaders of tomorrow.” – Abigail, Access Youth Academy 

“Advocates for the causes we believe in” – Alana, Racquet Up Detroit

“Persistent” – Jada, MetroSquash

Thursday, July 23 – Students Spend Day Four with Wes Moore, Admiral James Stavridis, and Alejandro Mayorkas

It’s hard to believe that we are over halfway through the 2020 Tour! Today was a busy day and we met with three incredible speakers – Robin Hood CEO Wes Moore, Former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO Admiral James Stavridis, and Alejandro Mayorkas, Former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Wes, who grew up in Baltimore and the Bronx (both home to SEA member programs), spoke about his current work leading Robin Hood, one of the biggest anti-poverty forces in the country, his work as an author, and his passion for providing people with sustainable economic mobility. Sporting a shirt that read #MeantForMore, he reminded our students that they are meant for more and “have an opportunity to walk down whatever path fulfills” them. “The meeting made me realize how much my youth voice matters in today’s society especially with the issues currently going on right now,” says Jada, rising high school junior from Chicago’s MetroSquash. Throughout the conversation, our students asked questions of Wes about his bestselling book The Other Wes Moore, his perspective on the complex ties between race and class, and more. It was a pleasure to speak with Wes and hear his story.

We were grateful to have Admiral James Stavridis speak with our group again this year. Admiral Stavridis met with our students on last year’s Tour and gave a keynote address at our reception. He kicked off the meeting by showing off his old school squash racquet! He went on to give our students the following pieces of advice: to continue to stay active though playing squash and other sports, to be involved in public service, and to own their education, even when they’re no longer in school. Students asked the Admiral questions about the culture of the military, his experience being vetted as a vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, and relations between the U.S. and China. Admiral Stavirdis left us with some inspiring parting words — “a leader is a dealer in hope,” he said.

Our third and final meeting of the day was with Alejandro Mayorkas. Alejandro is Cuban-American and his family came to the U.S. as political refugees. He is a lawyer and served as the Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security under President Obama. He’s currently a partner at WilmerHale. Alejandro and his wife Tanya hosted our group at their home on last year’s Tour. Tanya, who also has a background in law, joined in our conversation today as well. The Mayorkas’ spoke to our students about the importance of resolve, hard work, and education, and the variety of paths one can take to make a difference in the world. Our students had a lot of questions related to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which Alejandro helped develop and implement during his time as the Director of the Department’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.The group also discussed the current wave of activism and the Black Lives Matter protests. 

“I enjoyed today’s meetings with Wes Moore, Admiral Stavridis, and Alejandro and Tanya Mayorkas, who all shared a common and true belief that the future is in the hands of the youth,” says Julissa of Capitol Squash. “We will definitely hold on to the words of advice that we received today, and we are so thankful to our speakers for their time and thoughts.”

“I am not only excited to see the new and last speakers but to see what will happen after the Citizenship Tour,” says Ivett, a Santa Barbara School of Squash student. “Will I have changed my mind? Will I have a new perspective?”

Tuesday, July 21 – Journalism and Media are the focus of Tour Day Two as Students Meet with NBC News and The New York Times

Today’s Tour conversations covered all things news media and journalism. Our first meeting was with Senior Director at NBC News Brett Holey, Anchor Lester Holt, and Senior Vice President of NBC and MSNBC Rashida Jones. Brett, who directs breaking news, prime time and political programming and oversees directors, production and projects for network news, has been involved with the Tour since its origin in 2014. He spoke with the group about the importance of being an active consumer of media and introduced our students to his colleagues Lester and Rashida. 

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with news anchor Lester Holt. He talked about the importance of leadership and the value of diversity in the newsroom, and answered questions about Justice For All, his series on criminal justice reform, and moderating a presidential debate in 2016, among other things. Following our conversation with Lester, Rashida Jones spoke to our Tour students about her work as executive producer of breaking news and major events for NBC News and MSNBC and manager of MSNBC’s daytime programming. She reflected on how discipline and public service have been guiding principles for her career, and encouraged students to do what they’re passionate about. 

Our second meeting of the day was with Pulitzer prize winners from The New York Times Kathleen Kingsbury and Brent Staples. Kathleen is the Acting Editorial Page Editor at The Times. Brent is an editorial writer and has been member of the New York Times Editorial Board since 1990. 

Kathleen shared about how the publication operates, the difference between the news and opinion sections, and her notable work on labor issues. The students asked about her perspectives on a variety of topics, ranging from gun safety to reopening schools during the pandemic. The group also touched on how The Times decides which opinion pieces get published.

During our time with Brent, the group discussed some of his most notable works such as Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space, and asked questions about his decades of experience writing on race, cultural issues, and education. We’re grateful to Brent and Katie for sharing their time and insights with us! 

Our students finished the day with lots of advice and information to reflect on and are looking forward to tomorrow’s meetings with Former Massachusetts Governor Daval Patrick and Nisha Agarwal of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

Monday, July 20 – Students kick off Tour meetings with Aviva Rosman of BallotReady & The Atlantic’s Scott Stossel

Our Citizenship Tour students had their first full day of conversations today, speaking with BallotReady co-founder and COO Aviva Rosman and National Editor at The Atlantic Scott Stossel.

BallotReady makes it easy for voters to make informed choices on the entire ballot by providing background information on candidates and referenda and comparing candidates’ stances on important issues. Before starting BallotReady, Aviva was a Teach for America corps member, worked in campaigns, and ran for local office herself. Aviva spoke to our students about BallotReady’s commitment to “making sure democracy works the way it’s supposed to.” Our Tour students asked Aviva questions about voter suppression and turnout, the influence of social media on elections, and how to become an informed first-time voter. “Don’t let your voice be silenced,” Aviva told the group.

Following the talk with Aviva, students spoke with Scott Stossel, National Editor at The Atlantic and author. A squash player himself, Scott first became acquainted with our network while living in Boston during the early days of SquashBusters. Scott spoke about his years of experience as a writer and editor at The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and his two books Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver and My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. When reflecting on his journalism career, Scott spoke of the importance of having a “set of commonly understood facts.” He also touched on the challenges journalists and publications currently face when deciding what viewpoints to publish. 

Friday, July 17 – Students prepare for next week’s sessions and meet with SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant

Over the past three days, our Tour participants have been busy getting acquainted with each other, preparing for next week’s meetings, and discussing the topics they are most passionate about. Climate change, healthcare, and immigration are just some of the issues that are on the minds of our students. To learn about what a few of our Tour participants are looking forward to and eager to discuss with our speakers, check out the reflections below.

In addition to preparing for next week, the group spent some time talking with SEA’s Executive Director Tim Wyant today. Tim reflected on his experience as the first Executive Director of CitySquash and his role leading SEA, but the bulk of the conversation was led by our students. The group asked questions about future goals for SEA, how member programs will continue to operate during the pandemic, and the importance of having more leaders and staff members of color working in the SEA network.”Through listening to the discussion, I realized how many passionate peers I was gathered with and how lucky I was to hear their well thought questions,” says San Diego student Abigail. “Additionally, I learned how much thought the leaders of SEA had put into the program I was luckily a part of. Through the entire questioning with Mr. Wyant, I saw how transparent he was about the history and actions of SEA.”

We can’t wait for more great conversations next week with our inquisitive and thoughtful group of students!

Student Reflections

Abigail – Access Youth Academy
Before joining the Tour, I was so moved by the opportunities that it provided. I knew through the experience that I would get to ask the strong people in power all of the pressing questions that fill my brain. Also, being the curious person that I am, I saw the Tour as an outlet where I could listen, interact, and learn so much from my peers, staff, and speakers. Overall, I am not looking forward to one thing, person, or talk, I am looking forward to learning more about every person’s perspective, history, and experience. I think those facts are what shape a person and I am ready to challenge the speakers with deep questions.

Considering the current situation in the world with these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 outbreak and the recent spark of the Black Lives Matter movement, I believe that this tour will be different from the rest because these issues are in all of our minds. Personally, as a person of color I know that the environment that I am surrounded by has left me with unanswered questions, strong opinions, and a search for answers. In that search, I know that I need to be open minded and hear everyone through. I am looking forward to hearing from our speakers, and asking if they are in support of this civil rights movement and why. The ideas of these very powerful people in power is what helps define the nation, so I see it as so rewarding to get to soon hear from those individuals.

Julissa – Capitol Squash
I have always been passionate about advocating for an equitable healthcare system that does not neglect and negatively affect women and people of color. With the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting communities of color, specifically the Black and Indigenous communities, I have become even more drawn to this topic.

By attending this year’s Citizenship Tour, I see myself learning new ways to raise awareness and address this issue that I am so passionate about. Furthermore, I hope that I am able to influence the people I meet on tour, to realize the gravity of the issue and use their huge platform to advocate for a fairer healthcare system.

Tyan – MetroSquash

7th Annual Citizenship Tour Goes Virtual

From July 20-24, 23 high school and college students will take part in SEA’s 7th Annual (and first-ever virtual!) Citizenship Tour. These civically-minded students will spend the week meeting and speaking with leaders in government, policy, nonprofits, journalism, and more. Our high school participants hail from 12 SEA member programs across the country. This week, our students have begun gathering to prepare for their meetings and to get to know one another. See below to “meet” a few of our Tour participants and who they’ll be talking with next week!

Access Youth Academy
San Diego, CA

Issue you are passionate about: Climate change has proven to be a political, environmental, and social issue in the United States, and it is crucial that politicians and citizens across the nation understand the current conundrum. As a nation, we have failed to take appropriate action and just this past year the carbon emissions in the world were the highest in all of human history! That fact is crazy, and should have been enough to spark change but it hasn’t. I am excited to share my ideas with the members of the Tour and discuss pressing topics as such.

One word that describes you: Passionate. I love everything I do and usually spend lots of time trying to understand and contribute in the best way possible.

Santa Barbara School of Squash
Santa Barbara, CA

Issue you are passionate about: An issue that I’m passionate about is immigration but specifically DACA. This topic is important to me because I have family members that are here because of DACA.

One word that describes you: Motivated


Urban Squash Cleveland
Cleveland, OH

Issue you are passionate about: The mortality rates of Black women during childbirth and why they are so high compared to other races of women.

One word that describes you: Ambitious


Santa Barbara School of Squash
Santa Barbara, CA

Issue you are passionate about: The juvenile prison system reinforces criminal behavior rather than rehabilitating incarcerated children by not protecting them in the cells from other adults, punishing them ever more than others, and not giving them the help they deserve trying to become a better person. Not only has this opened my eyes to the juveniles being put in prison but to the percentage of people in prison are African Americans.

One word that describes you: Considerate

2020 Tour Speakers

Nisha Agarwal
Deputy Executive Director, International Refugee Assistance Project

Brett Holey
Senior Director, NBC News

Lester Holt
Anchor, NBC News

Rashida Jones
Senior Vice President, NBC News and MSNBC

Kathleen Kingsbury
Acting Editorial Page Editor, The New York Times

Franklin Leonard
Founder of The Black List

Alejandro Mayorkas
Former Deputy Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

Wes Moore
CEO, Robin Hood

Deval Patrick
Former Massachusetts Governor

Aviva Rosman
Co-Founder and COO, BallotReady

Brent Staples
Editorial Writer, The New York Times

Admiral James Stavridis
Former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO

Scott Stossel
National Editor, The Atlantic

Jennifer Wynn
Director of Education, Obama Foundation

2020 Tour Participants
Abigail – Access Youth Academy
Melisa – Santa Barbara School of Squash
Reanna – SquashBusters Boston
Tyan – MetroSquash
Kyla – SquashSmarts
Alana – Racquet Up Detroit
Daniela – Santa Barbara School of Squash
Tahneja – Urban Squash Cleveland
Anthony – SquashSmarts
Makayla – SquashDrive
Sanaa – SquashWise
Ivett – Santa Barbara School of Squash
Julissa – Capitol Squash
Vivian – Access Youth Academy
Mariya – CitySquash
Adriana – Capitol Squash
Johanna – Squash Haven
Jayden – Squash Haven
Jayrene – Squash Haven
Yuliana – SquashBusters Lawrence