Meet Amit Dodani
I am Amit (pronounced UH-MYTH). My name, in Hindi, means limitless. Yes, I know - that is quite possibly the most pretentious intro you have ever read.
Scratch that. I’m 19 years old - with all the creativity, blind ambition, and wishful thinking of a young person. And I love to tell stories.
I started My Name My Story when I was 13 years old. What started off as a pet project my freshman year of high school founded upon the idea that stories matter, has turned into a movement impacting over 15,000 young people across the country. Now, we are an education organization that teaches the 21st century skills of empathy, teamwork, and innovation to middle and high school students. Our trademarked program “Changemaker Day” has been brought to over 50 schools to empower young people with the skills to be agents of change right now, and begin fostering cultures of empathy on school campuses. Our theory of change is simple - stories inspire empathy & empathy drives change. We believe if students can practice answering three main questions “Who Am I? Who are You? And Who Are We?” they will begin flexing their empathy muscle. With this foundation, they will use that empathetic foundation to create change in their local and global communities. We are currently on a national tour, delivering the Changemaker Day to 7500 students in 6 states!
Why is it needed in our world?
In 2008, Barack Obama claimed that one of the most pressing problems this country faces is not the federal deficit, but the “empathy” deficit. Our team agrees. Although there has been a dramatic emphasis on diversity in our schools, in media, and in our communities, there has not been a subsequent increase in diversity programming. In other words, diversity may exist, but we believe diversity is nothing unless we embrace it. And to do that, we need to share stories, we need to collaborate, and we need to innovate. We live in divisive times. I don’t need to explain that statement. In a time where the media often paints an incredibly fearful, chaotic picture of this country, our stories are our sole sense of connectivity. They transcend the walls erected by our differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc. We need to use them as a means to connect, a means to organize, and a means to empower our communities.
And that starts with young people. Young people are going to be challenged to take on issues that don’t even exist yet. They will be challenged to work in teams across lines of difference with black, brown, and white folks all in one space. The question that hit us right in the face is, “What are we doing to help young people reach their full potential, together, in this 21st century world?
What he hopes to accomplish:
This is the most difficult question for me to answer. One of the battles we face most as an organization is measuring our impact. Our work is centered around emotion and the power of vulnerability. There are certain parts of what I do that I simply cannot explain with metrics or data. However, this impact can be shared through anecdotes, stories of real, incredible young people who have been inspired to take action because of our work.
I couldn’t explicitly specify what I hope to “accomplish.” Looking at this from a 30,000 foot view, I want to reimagine education. Not reform, reimagine. I want young people who are often dismissed and overlooked because they don’t fit the typical characteristics of the “average learner” to be empowered to express themselves in their own way. I want social emotional learning to be a core part of every public school’s curriculum. I want students to feel safe at school, replacing metal detectors and police officers with words of affirmation and culture change.
I know that this isn’t a one-man show. And it isn’t a one-organization show. To truly reimagine education we need a variety of players on board. Regardless, I believe that it starts with students, and that’s why our work engages so directly with young people. We are turning a small lever on a big ship and we hope for a ripple effect.
How we can support:
Bring us to your schools! Whether you are a parent, student, teacher, entrepreneur, professional or anything in between - odds are you are connected to education in some way. If you believe empathy, teamwork, and innovation are valuable skills that need to be taught - reach out to us and connect us with an educator!
Follow Amit at:
You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @aadodani. I’m bias, but I think I post great content :)
Like the My Name My Story Facebook Page to keep up with our travels around the country this fall. Follow us on Instagram @mynamemystory!