This dynamic cohort joined the program eager to be connected to the people, places and things that would help them turn their passions into impact. These #gmechangers are strong willed and determined to put in the work it takes to be successful. They're collaborative, curious, creative and empowered and we can't wait to equip them with the right resources to make impact within and outside the city of Chicago. Keep watch for this group, you'll surely hear more about their successes.
Ayana Fairley is a senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy and currently lives in Auburn Gresham neighborhood. Ever since she was born she loved reading, writing, children and animals. Ayana not only wants to better low income neighborhoods, but third world countries in order to have more opportunities that better their country and give them better opportunities. She wants education to be more accessible to children in third world countries who don’t have much money. Ayana believes children in third world countries shouldn’t have to pay for education and should have it for free. She believes that there should be more accessible opportunities for youth regarding their careers so they have more exposure to careers they may want to pursue. Ayana believes that everyone can be an entrepreneur as long as they are willing to put in the work and dedication that’s needed in being an entrepreneur. Erin Philyaw, Ayana’s english teacher, used to say, “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the man to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea”
Ayema Fairley is a current senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. She likes to read, draw and study. Her main interest is writing. Writing has been her divine passion since the 7th grade, ever since she wrote her first poem. Writing has been her way to escape and find freedom. She writes based on her mood, emotions, thoughts and feelings. She believes that writing is an essential way for her to connect to the world and help others understand how she works and how she processes her thoughts. She loves the free use of language that comes along with writing because there’s no right or wrong answer in free writing and no one can openly take away this escape from her. She wants to continue writing as long as she has a passion for it. Lastly, writing consists of words that can mean so much and words are hard to say, so this is her way of communicating openly to others. She believes that words are powerful enough to give life and take life from people, and she wants to use this power to better impact her community.
Jace Guy is a senior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy and a co-founder of Kangaroo, an on-demand delivery service for hair stylists. Jace is known amongst her peers as a go-getter - always on the move striving for success, she makes effort to achieve goals big or small. She successfully manages being a teacher's assistant, working, school, community programming and dance. While there are obstacles she faces every step of the way, that doesn’t deter her from achieving what she knows is her best. Jace believes that if you want something bad enough, nothing can stop you. With a high spirit and drive she identified that entrepreneurship would feed her desire to be innovative and put her ideas to use. As she enters her senior year, she keeps in mind that in order for her to lead she has to learn, listen, and be observant. Pulling from a quote from John F. Kennedy, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
Janniya Hodge is a recent graduate of Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep where she served as the 2019 class treasurer. Janniya is also a co-founder of Kangaroo, an on-demand delivery service for hair stylists. Janniya believes that entrepreneurship is her calling. Throughout her time at Brooks she was a prestigious member of the volleyball, basketball, and track and field teams. As a result of being sidelined from sports in June of 2018 due to an injury requiring mandatory surgery, Janniya explored the academic clubs at her school and identifies as a member of the NHS and NSBE. Janniya also styles hair as a hobby, but decided to take it seriously after being rejected from employment opportunities in her neighborhood because of her “physical disability”. The day that Janniya was finally cleared to stand again, she was back doing hair, as her OWN boss. The momentum and development of her resilience has landed her an invitation to showcase her talents at the Annual “Girlpreneurship” (Girl Entrepreneurship) Exposition in Chicago and multiple booth offers. Janniya has always had aspirations to be an astronaut so she chose mechanical engineering as her field of study at her future college/university in the fall of 2019. If all fails, Janniya plans to use the knowledge she gains from The Gray Matter Experience to open her own hair salon one day to employ Black and brown girls like herself.
John Ivy is a senior at Plainfield Central High school. John grew up on Chicago’s south side and recently moved to Plainfield, Illinois. He participates in the Chicago debate league, where he judges middle school debates and was a member of his school's debate team his freshman and sophomore year, where he served as president until he started the DP programme - a highly selective course where students have the option of taking college courses their last two years of high school. Aside from his education, John is also the captain of his Volleyball team and his Model UN team as well as a student ambassador for his school, where he was recently voted President. John also plays the violin and has participated in competitions for his schools’ orchestra. John feels that his interest in entrepreneurship isn't about money and having large amounts of it (“it’s definitely a nice amenity though”-John), but the way in which you acquire it - being able to put a physical value on the work you completed and the fact that money is a universal tool that can be used anyway you want it to. John feels that through marketing a set of ideals to youth and adults through activities and programs that peak their interest, his community can grow. Not just as individuals, but as a society bettering itself to allow the expansion of the community they wish to see.
Asia Jordan is a freshman at Governors State University. Asia joined the Gray Matter Experience in order to gain experience and insight on what it means to be an entrepreneur and what steps she needs to take in order to be successful. She also wants to see many more black owned businesses and she believes that she is certainly up next. Asia is extremely motivated and has an extreme amount of confidence. She believes that she will be an extremely successful entrepreneur and has no doubts about that. Asia has wanted to be an entrepreneur since she was young and knows that this is her purpose in life. Asia is determined and wants to inspire others to believe in themselves and take a leap of faith when it comes to their goals. Asia is hard working, creative, intelligent and humble. Asia has worked hard for everything that she has and that has molded her into being the strong independent young lady she is today.
Yahriel Walton is a freshman at Fisk University and a former resident of the South Shore neighborhood. He is an undefeated (3 years) member of chess club and president of student government, where he organizes school dances, community service opportunities and voices the opinion of the student body. Outside of school, he enjoys spending time with friends, networking through LinkedIn, and spending time with family. His entrepreneurial spirit is influenced by his uncle, who has a national best-selling book, There Are No Children Here. He is a member of We Invest Black, a non-profit organization that helps youth raise capital to launch their own business. Yahriel has been recognized by the Male Mogul Initiative as the first place winner of its 3rd annual business pitch competition. He has his own clothing brand, Mobeni LLC., that has seen a steady increase in sales since its start in November 2018 and is planning to launch a line of men’s grooming products. Accepted to 16 different colleges and Universities, Yahriel chose Fisk University as his university of choice. His ultimate goal is to stimulate the underserved communities of Chicago.
Immanuel Taylor is a freshman at Iowa State University majoring in Animal Science. He has a ton of experience with working in different programs and organizations - from hosting radio shows, to working for the JB Pritzker for Governor campaign. Coming from a large family of 10 siblings and playing football his whole life, he’s developed exceptional leadership skills and learned how to succeed both individually and within a team. Growing up on the southside of Chicago he’s faced gang and gun violence even at a young age, but has not let that shape who he is or what he will become. He’s proven a lot of people who doubted him wrong, even at this point, and plans to continue. He’a an aspiring veterinarian with the goal of one day providing a more convenient and affordable way for pet-owners to care for their pets. He also plans to change the social perspective of young Black men in Chicago by continuing on his journey to success and not allowing outside factors to distract him from reaching his goals. He joined The Gray Matter Experience to learn and develop skills that will translate in his everyday life and to better understand how to succeed in the future. An exemplary student with ties to his family and community who will change the world!
Emmanuel Thompson is a go getter. As senior at Glenbard East High School, he opens closed doors, and brings others on his way. Emmanuel is the founder of Strength Together, an app supporting teens struggling with mental illness. Not only has he began teaching himself agile, he also built The Future Founders Club, to teach it to his peers. When he realized he was interested in technology, he built a few computers and then began to teach himself code. In doing so, he merged his passions in business, helping others and technology, and began developing an app to improve students mental health. Friends of Emmanuel will vouch for his empathy, his strong drive and leadership skills and tell you how Emmanuel has helped decrease the number of suicides at his school and helped kids deal with their bullies. Emmanuel is passionate about entrepreneurship because he relishes the challenge, the next opportunity to put his skills to the test and come out on top, and then turn around to help others do the same.