Last week, we sat down for a quick Q&A with Anytown alum, Will Gilbert III. Since participating in Anytown as a high school student, Will has continued to stay engaged with NCCJ St. Louis and the work we do. Will completes our Facilitrainer Certification Program next month and credits Anytown with igniting a passion for social justice.
1. Tell us a little bit about your experience at Anytown.
Anytown was a transformative experience for me. I attended in 2003, after my freshman year of high school. While I had been exposed to other cultures and had friends from varying backgrounds, Anytown was the first time that I had my worldviews actively challenged. It was both an introspective and communal experience. I spent those 8 days outside of Jefferson City looking at my own life, working through how I had become the person that I was. At the same time, I was learning about the lives and experiences of the other delegates and developing a community with them.
2. Did you have any personal discoveries or learn any new ideas?
I came to a few conclusions. The world is more complicated than I thought. Effort doesn't necessarily beget opportunity or results. The world is a better place because of its rich diversity. And seeking to make it a socially just world became one of my passions. It helped that Anytown gave me tools and a group of people to work with to pursue this goal.
3. How has Anytown impacted the work you are doing now?
My experience at Anytown led directly to me becoming a teacher. At Anytown, I developed leadership skills and an earnest desire for social justice. On Anytown staff, I honed my abilities for facilitation and presentation. And I've applied these things to working in a school. I listen more to my students. I allow them to direct discussion. Above all, my experience at Anytown reminded me that the students I teach are leaders in and of themselves. Their lived experience is what makes our classroom, our school, and our city a more vibrant and productive place. Now I find myself encouraging these same students to look critically at their own life and to develop a sense of community with each other. And I'm asking them to go to Anytown too.