Kieshaun White of Southwest Fresno is one of the remarkable youth leaders from this cohort who has made a measurable impact in his community. He attributes his success to the program’s mentors and unique tools and resources offered to participants. Read his story and interview below:
My name is Kieshaun White. I was born on the Southwest side of Fresno, California, where one in four young people have asthma. I am that one.
Since I couldn’t do a lot of activities outside, I stayed inside and fell in love with the Science Channel. When I turned 13, I got in contact with my amazing mentor, Marcel Woodruff, and he introduced me to Fresno Boys and Men of Color program where they taught me how to advocate for my community and to speak in front of large crowds. During my freshman year of high school, my mentors, Francisco Espinoza and Marcel Woodruff, told me to apply for the Pollination Project impact grant, which is a grant that engages youth to use their passion and their love for their community to create a project. I used the Pollination Project grant to purchase a drone and a purple air quality monitor and started to test the air at schools around Fresno.
At first I didn’t know that there was a 25-year life expectancy difference between the northern part of Fresno (a historically white community) and the southwest side of Fresno, but as I conducted my experiments and collected data, the disparity in air quality became clear. After that, I received a $10,000 grant from Youth Leadership Institute to expand my project, so I partnered with the Fresno Unified School District to put air quality monitors up in every high school in the district. We also built an app so that people can get up-to-the-minute hyper local air quality information.
What does My Brother’s Keeper mean to you?
Kieshaun: My Brother’s Keeper means family. I have built some amazing relationships with the people I’ve met from the gathering in Oakland.
If you had one piece of advice for community leaders working on behalf of boys and young men of color, what would it be? What would your call to action be for them?
Kieshaun: The advice I would give is to know your youth and grow with your youth. My call to action is to expose the youth in impoverished areas to a better life: travel with them, show them new things, and make sure they know the grass can be greener for y’all and we just gotta make it for you.
What motivates you to keep going on your hardest days?
Kieshaun: What motivates me is knowing that I started my project from literally nothing and couldn’t really see the power I was creating. Now, I’ve shared a stage with President Obama and Steph Curry and shared my project with California Governor Gavin Newsom and at the California Economic Summit. Having a great mentor also taught me how to mentor, which gets me excited to wake up every day to mentor my youth.