I was then put in touch with Kimmi, who is a youth organizer at Critical Exposure. She invited me to meet her at the office, where she gave me a brief tour, and from there we went to grab coffee at a nearby café. This was my first time conducting an informational interview in person; my previous two were carried out over the phone. While I enjoyed being able to speak with Kimmi face to face, it was somewhat difficult for me to strike a balance between being fully absorbed in the conversation while also jotting down notes. As I was interviewing her, I felt I had to be more aware of using open body language to show that I was engaged, rather than just huddling down over my notebook scribbling down her remarks. If I conduct another in person informational interview, I might try taking notes on my computer rather than by hand. Depending on the circumstances, I might also consider asking the interviewee if he or she minds if I record the interview on my phone so I can refer back to it later.
All in all, my interview with Kimmi went well. I learned that she is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and she has been working at Critical Exposure since September. As a youth organizer at Critical Exposure, Kimmi helps the students develop their advocacy organizing skills and enhances their understanding of issues relating to politics and social justice. She also shows students how they can use their photography skills to fight for positive social change.
I was excited to hear about Kimmi's work at Critical Exposure since the organization takes a unique approach, giving a voice to those who are most affected by substandard schools. It seems that any input from students is largely absent from conversations about how to improve the schools serving low-income communities. But at Critical Exposure, students use their photos to show principals, superintendents and other people in positions of power what changes need to be made to their schools and why. One of their most recent projects was persuading the principal to hire a librarian.
According to Kimmi, Critical Exposure serves students in the D.C. area, at three different D.C. public schools, but I would love to see them expand their program to other urban areas across the country that have similar struggling school systems. I think it is incredible how the organization empowers underprivileged students, encouraging them to identify the ways in which their schools can improve and allowing them to use their creativity to communicate that message.
Moreover, my informational interview with Kimmi revealed the value of developing people management skills, which was the focus of my presentation in class last week. However, Kimmi did not use the words "people management," and instead described it as facilitation skills. By this she was referring to the ability to direct a group, to identify capabilities of members within the group, and to develop and strengthen their potential. In my presentation I mentioned how it is important for a manager to function as a team player, rather than as an authority figure. I think this is especially true for Kimmi's position as a youth organizer since she aims to build leadership in her students. Treating them as subordinates would only work to counteract this effort.
Kimmi's insight has had a positive influence on me and my hopes for my future. Hearing about her experiences gave me more food for thought as I consider which direction to take after graduation. My ability to schedule an interview with her was very reassuring as it proved that I have nothing to lose by sending out cold emails. I may not always receive a response, but it never hurts to try.