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#51 "Seven Generations ago someone cared about me"

Grounds of Change #51 is about Jessica Santana. She co-founded the nonprofit America on Tech which is an award-winning nonprofit organization that creates pathways for students into careers in technology and innovation. Check out their website-

I want to begin Jess’s story on her graduation day. Imagine Jess, dressed in her cap and gown, reflecting on her high school career. She had spent the last four years building friendships, achieving goals, and dreaming big with her classmates. Jess was valedictorian of her class, so she had the opportunity to speak at the ceremony. This speech was important to her. 

She explained to me how it was her chance to share with her peers how much she cared about each of them. She told her classmates that she not only loved them; but she also told them that she deeply believed in them and their futures – a message that foreshadowed her career.

After becoming the first person in her family to attend college, she graduated from Syracuse University and went on to create the nonprofit, America on Tech.  America on Tech provides technology education, internships and jobs to young people in underrepresented communities. They are mobilizing the next generation of technology leaders. As a student becomes involved with America on Tech, they are provided a multitude of opportunities that range from having a mentor, networking with professionals, going to the corporate tech offices like Twitter and dreaming as big as they possibly can. 

It started as Brooklyn on Tech, then New York on Tech and now, America on Tech. This was important to Jess. It was her chance to share with the students of Brooklyn, New York, and America how much she cared about each of them. As she guides them to bright futures, Jess lets these students know that she not only loves them; but that she deeply believes in them and their futures. 

So, what can we learn from Jess? We can learn to care for people the way Jess does. It is so important for us to care for the rights, wellbeing, and future of others. Maybe you don’t have a graduation speech or a nonprofit to use to show that you love and believe in your peers. However, you have daily conversations and actions. Let’s start using these opportunities to uplift others, not just by telling them we love them but also by showing them we believe in them and their futures.

There was something else that Jess shared that I have been thinking about and wanted to share with you. When I asked her “why”…why spend a life of doing good. I loved her answer. She said, “I feel like seven generations ago someone cared about me. People were mobilizing and creating change through the civil rights movement.” Jess credits her opportunities to the efforts and sacrifices of the people who cared about her seven generations ago, long before she was born. Jess wants to pay that forward with the work she does with her current students and maybe ones she will never meet.

Seven generations ago someone cared about Jess, and she now cares for someone who may not be here for seven generations. Think about that. Imagine someone from seven generations in the future fighting for someone or something because you are fighting for them today.

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