My name is Rebecca Castillo and I’m thrilled to be returning to High School Insider as the new Project Lead! I first became involved with HS Insider during my junior year at Charter Oak High School.
I’d always loved storytelling but as I got older, I became increasingly aware of the fact that there weren’t many journalists, authors, and other storytellers who looked like me or shared my lived experiences. I felt frustrated by the lack of diverse representation in media and the realization that even when there were characters who looked like me in books or movies they were often built around stereotypes.
The summer after I graduated from high school in 2016, I interned for HS Insider, an experience that shaped the course of my future. That summer, I learned about social impact issues I’d never been taught about in school, like gentrification and institutional racism.
That fall, I began my four-year journey at Swarthmore College, where I designed a special major in Education, Race, and Media Studies. At Swarthmore, I quickly discovered my passion for accessible education. It blew my mind that the trajectory of a child’s life could be predicted based on the zip code they grew up in. I began to see how all of these issues were tied to each other: institutional racism leads to inaccessible education which causes poor representation in media, which ultimately fuels more racism.
With this realization in mind, I became more determined than ever to fight for accessible education and better representation. I received funding from Swarthmore during my sophomore year to design and launch Storyboard, a storytelling for social change after-school program for students with diverse backgrounds (inspired by my internship with HS Insider). For five years, I ran programs that taught middle and high school students photography, filmmaking, and writing skills.
I return now to HS Insider, reflecting on 17-year-old me, who was so eager to be telling stories about my school, myself, and my community. I’m so grateful that I was given the tools, education, and resources to share my stories, and I feel incredibly lucky to be back, supporting all of you in sharing yours.