Interview with Amit Dodani: 5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview Series
“If young people have empathy and practice it on a daily basis as a skill, they will be able to use it to drive change.” — Amit Dodani
The world we live in is rich in diversity, but sometimes the difference in cultures and backgrounds can create misunderstandings, leading to a divide between. “There’s been an incredible increase in diversity particularly amongst our schools, but there hasn’t been a subsequent increase in diversity programming,” says My Name My Story founder Amit Dodani, who saw problems related to diversity at his school and wanted to do something about it.
At the age of fourteen, Dodani started My Name My Story to forge connections and ignite understanding between him and his classmates. “My name My Story is an education organization that works to teach the 21st-century skills of empathy, teamwork, and innovation to young people,” explains Dodani. “The unique part of the program we offer to schools and students is that the reflection process is both alone and in teams and groups. A lot of it is trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, in order to do that, they need to understand themselves.”
We spoke with Amit about My Name My Story, his thoughts on how teens can make a difference in the world, and his experiences with Peace First. The interview with Amit Dodani is the third interview in the 10-part “5 minutes with a Teen Difference Maker” Interview Series. The series is hosted by After School in partnership with nonprofit organization Peace First, and includes teens all across the country who have made a difference in a wide variety of ways, from anti-bullying to raising awareness for the homeless.
Creating any business or nonprofit organization comes with a lot of challenges. “The hardest challenge for me, personally, was getting over the fact that I was young. There were so many things in my life that were constantly changing and evolving, and I truly questioned whether or not my work was worth it,” says Dodani.
Beginning in 2011, it’s clear that My Name My Story has had a tremendous positive impact on the lives of young people. The organization provides school programming and summer camps, and is starting to write the manual for how empathy and other similar skills can be taught on a larger scale.
According to Dodani, My Name My Story integrates two assumptions into their approach:
- “When young people talk to young people they listen. In other words, our biggest allies are each other.”
- “Young people want to be told what they can do, rather than what they can’t do. We want to give young people the opportunity to move fast and take risks; the opportunity to break things; the opportunity to be changemakers.”
Dodani is also helping other teens and youth become changemakers through his involvement as a Peace First Designer. He’s encouraging teens to start a peacemaking project through Peace First.
Dodani admits that it can be hard to believe in yourself and earn the trust and support of others when being young. “Being a young person who is working on a project — you are often looked down upon…I think it’s very difficult for people to take young people seriously.” With youth-focused organizations like Peace First and My Name My Story, youth will be given more opportunities to create change, and receive more support from those who otherwise would doubt their abilities and not take children’s goals and beliefs seriously.
“The Peace First challenge allows young people to go through this journey that is incredible for the young person doing the work, and also incredible for the people that are benefiting from the work,” says Dodani. To learn more about the Peace First Challenge, and to get involved today, visit PeaceFirst.org.
Additional Quotes from Our Interview with Amit Dodani:
- “When we come together as a community amongst our differences, we can truly create something special and amplify our voices.”
- “In essence, our schools need to offer this training of 21st century skills that will be needed in this evolving, diverse, technological age that we are coming into.”
- “We believe that the lack of empathy is the root cause of many of the issues we see on school campuses today.”
- “We believe when young people understand their story, they can understand how their identity connects with their community, and their communities identity in relation to theirs, then they can truly empathize.”
Read more from the 5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview Series: