Reflective Teens is a non-profit teen-based creative platform that serves as an environment for fostering the creative abilities of teenagers and giving them equal opportunity in sharing their creativity with the world. Read on to learn how Reflective Teens was founded by Yusuf Munna in 2013 and how the organization in Bangladesh has grown to fifty volunteers that have worked with over 47,000 teens!
Reflective Teens (RT) is a teen-focused creative platform where we focus on maximizing the abilities of teenagers to prepare them for the present and the future. RT has changed its pattern of working over the years however, currently we organize three main programs.
- Bridges, Not Borders: a virtual-cultural exchange between young adults from Bangladesh and other countries who represent various aspects of their countries through creative mediums throughout the 3 weeks this program lasts.
- RT Brainery: a 4-week-long workshop that teaches new skills or polishes existing skills of teenagers, for instance, creative writing, painting and programming, by the help of expert instructors in their niche.
- RT Creator’s Convergence: a day-long seminar that connects teenagers to successful creative artists from photographers to writers who educate the young adults about their path to success and encourage them to follow their passion.
We try to reach teenagers from different backgrounds and foster their creative abilities by exposure, encouragement and incubation via the aforementioned programs. Currently, around 50 young adults work voluntarily to ensure the smooth running of RT. We discuss issues, brainstorm ideas and support each other regardless of our title in RT. Through the hard-work of these young adults, in 2020 alone we have been able to reach more than 50 educational institutions and around eleven thousand students directly.
The participants of our programs often reach back to us expressing how they have found new interests, have been able to make friends across the globe, began to discover themselves among many others. Many guardians also have agreed their children have changed for the better through RT and they themselves began to understand their teenagers better because of RT.
Even though these make us content, the happiest moment for us is when we see our participants reciprocate our beliefs through their work. The ripple effect of change created by RT for teenagers is what we believe as the greatest impact of RT.
Origins of Reflective Teens
I formed the basic idea of RT back in 2013. Because of my encouraging father, I have been an enthusiastic writer from a young age. In middle school, I began submitting articles to various newspapers and magazines. However, all of these were rejected, if not ignored. Knowing my potential, a senior of mine introduced me to a newspaper editor who asked me to send one of my articles to him. With little hope as I had sent one of my writings to his institution before, I sent one of my old writings again. To my surprise, this was published very easily.
This experience made me realize how difficult it is for teenagers to get a foothold in mainstream media without any connections, even if they have the potential. With some friends who had similar experiences where they were not able to pursue their passions, I set up the foundation of RT. Over the years, even though the pattern of RT has changed, we keep our core belief and aim consistent.
Responsibilities, Challenges, and Success
In RT as the Founder and CEO, I mostly now overlook the work processes, support others when they need my help and reach out to connect with people who can help better RT. Through the eight years, to me, the most challenging aspect was finding the right team. An effective team of teenagers who voluntarily work for a cause and balancing this team was much more of a challenge than I ever thought it would be. However, with time I found a right and harmonious team who brought in more people of quality which set the flow of RT’s effective team of young adults. Right now, I am the proudest about this team who reach heights I never thought we could and keeping pushing the boundaries further.
Except working for RT, I have not let my passion for writing die. I still write columns for different medias as part of my extracurriculars. As a student who is a writer and a CEO, I often face bewildered people asking about my time management. It is not as difficult of a work as it seems. I simply focus on reducing my unproductive time like hours on social media or binge-watching TV shows.
This, however, does not mean I do not have any free time or enjoyment in my life. I still enjoy connecting with my friends or watch a good movie. Most importantly, I enjoy reading books and listening to podcasts. If I have a busy schedule and come across an interesting long read or listen, I bookmark it for my leisure time. Learning about something new regardless of the subject, gives me a sense of refreshment and fulfillment.
Staying in the Present
Through the past 8 years, one of the many things I have learned is that the future is very uncertain and at the same time flexible. When we wish to climb up, we tend to think we can take one step at a time. However, I have realized step 1 to step 2 is also a long way. Many a times, we can reach step 1.5 before moving on further. Sometimes we fall back to step 1. Struggles, mistakes, failures are all a process of growing to me. Hence, we at RT tend to concentrate on the effort of today to make tomorrow better. Today’s effort will make or break tomorrow and that is our focus.
Advice to Others
For anyone out there thinking about launching a non-profit, before anything you need to realize the cause. Do not start a non-profit for the sake of developing one but because you yourself feel the need of it. Only then, the non-profit will be meaningful and others will also feel your dedication. Try to make the non-profit cause-driven rather than title-driven. If you are young, never let your age daunt your confidence. Age does not define what you can or cannot do. Mistakes are inevitable but learning from them is what you should master in.
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