Unapologetic Moxie

2 months is quite a while away from home, but as soon as we hit the halfway point, the Moxie program flew by. Before I knew it, we wrote our last reading reflection, had our last seminar, went to our last enrichment activity, and it was my last official day at GGE.

I will admit that, as Moxie came to a close, I was itching to finally go home. I was sort of over the “New York rush” and was definitely fed up with the polluted, congested air making my skin break out. By the 6th week, I was ready to relax, see my parents, and eat home-cooked food.

But, now that I am home, I am realizing that my experience with Moxie was a special one that can’t be duplicated anywhere else or with anyone else. Since I’ve been back in Boston, I went straight back to working at my old summer camp. I’ve heard young people call their peers “gay” a billion times as if it were an insult. I’ve heard the boys say, “the girls should leave the pool 10 minutes earlier than us because girls take forever in the bathroom.” I’ve even heard campers say that they once wanted to be construction workers until they realized those were “boy jobs.” It has taken a lot in me to hold my tongue. But, I am in a conflicted position where, as a camp counselor, I can’t openly share my views with the young people. I can’t teach them that they shouldn’t use people’s identities as teasing mechanisms or that they don’t have to limit themselves to societal standards and gender binaries because who knows what their families support at home. It is a sensitive line that I can’t really cross.

However, Moxies don’t hold back. We constantly questioned theories and always challenged societal norms. It wasn’t until I returned to my small reality that I realized the Moxie program gave me the privilege of being around driven, change seekers who were always open to hearing different opinions about the world we live in. There were no boundaries. There were no lines.  I had the freedom to discuss stigmas and political tension. I was free to be curious. Being able to talk about women’s rights without a worry in the world of who is around is an opportunity that I will cherish forever.

Maybe my summer camp will, one day, add social justice classes to the schedule instead of devoting summers to solely sports and solving mysteries of mythical monsters designed to entertain the children. Maybe they will, one day, discipline campers through restorative justice practices rather than writing incident reports. It’s amazing to see that last summer, I didn’t see anything wrong with the way my camp ran. Ever since Moxie, however, my eyes have been unlocked to always seek change and improvements, for the better, no matter how perfect I thought it was before.

Changing an Individualistic, Perfectionist Society 101

Now that the Moxie program is starting to wind down, I’ve decided that we’re gonna take it all the way back to our first pre-departure meeting. Yup, that’s what we’re talking about today.

Before we even arrived in New York, the Moxies had a discussion on how the rise in neoliberalism has created a shift from a communal society to an individualistic one. As a result, perfectionism is at an all time high. As we become more focused on the individual, young people, like myself, feel immense pressure to have the perfect grades, attend high ranked colleges, and be the best at everything we do. Young people often determine their success based on the success of those around them thereby creating a competitive atmosphere to be the most successful. If Lilly gets into a DukeEngage program and then finds out Tommy is interning at Capitol Hill, Lilly suddenly feels like she is missing out because she is comparing herself to her peer. While it is great to hold students up to high expectations, it is not so beneficial in a neoliberalist society, like ours, because we tend to exaggerate these standards to the point where they become nearly impossible. One slip up and it’s the end of the world!



After completing the article, I was sort of annoyed by the author’s vague resolution. She stated that in order to stray away from individualism, we need to make strides towards “collective values.” I mean….duh…sis… of course. But, what concrete things can we do to alter this success obsessed world we live in?

I might have a few ideas based on my experience here in NYC. These tips may not be helpful for everyone, but I do believe that we should take the time to consider them. In order to strive towards a collective, we need to deconstruct the way we exist in this society and change the way we respond to neoliberal systems. Here’s how:

  1. Embrace the Unfamiliar.

When we visited Choices Women’s Medical Center, Merle asked the Moxies if we thought we were politically engaged. My response was, “Well, I want to be” and the only thing holding me back from claiming this identity was that I felt as though I did not know enough. I explained that there was so much more I needed to know about government and politics in order for me to be truly be politically engaged. But, fact of the matter is, we’ll never really know everything. From discussing how labels can actually inhibit sexual liberation to understanding why empathy is not the gateway to creating change, Moxie continues to open new doors outside what I initially sought coming into the program. It’s like everything we discuss is food for thought & I’m stuffed, but I can’t stop eating. I can’t stop thinking. In order to refrain from perfectionism, we have to understand that we will never be perfect. It is okay to be confused. We don’t and won’t have answers to everything. So don’t be afraid when you are confronted with something new. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable and don’t freak out when things don’t align the way you thought they would.


2.  Breathe.

Breathing is a moment where you simply get to be. You get the opportunity to just exist. So, stop thinking about that paper that is due next week for 10 minutes. Stop worrying about the A you really “need” in that class and take a break from thinking about the next internship you “need” to apply for. What we really need is to breathe and by breathe, I am not just referring to the gas exchange that occurs in our lungs. I am suggesting that we do things that help us decompress because life shouldn’t be about stressing all the time. For some people, relaxation means exercising, listening to music, or driving. For me, this means slapping on a face mask and letting it clear my pores as I binge watch crappy episodes of Jersey Shore. Whatever “breathing” is to you, do it. Breathe.


3.  Soak Up Your Surroundings.

I’ve always known NYC is “the city that never sleeps,” but living here has made me realize that this city is the epitome of perfectionism. New Yorkers are always on the go and are so focused on what is ahead that they don’t get the chance to appreciate what is here, right now. This constant rush has enhanced the stress I feel and when I am chillin’, I feel more stressed because it feels like I’m not doing anything purposeful. But, we need to realize that we don’t always have to be doing something! This isn’t just a NYC thing, but this is also a common feeling in college. If we aren’t cramming for an exam or writing a 10 page paper then we think we aren’t working hard enough. But, sometimes we need to just live in the moment. The other day, Bianca, Kaili, Laura, and I played a game where we each had to answer questions about ourselves for a full 2 minutes. Even though I was nervous to share, it felt good to be open, honest, and learn about one another. One night, Kaili and I shared a common interest in conspiracy theories and it was so fun to laugh and think about the world’s curiosities and exaggerated ideas. Finally, yesterday, I walked passed this bubble tea spot that I’ve been wanting to try and as tired as I was, I just wanted to go straight home. Instead, I took 5 minutes to buy the Passion Fruit tea and when I tell you it was worth it… oh boy. I didn’t even know I liked Bubble Tea! The point is, there is more to life than work. Don’t let your surroundings just be surroundings. Allow yourself to explore and enjoy them.

While most of these tips seem like they still focus on the individual, I believe that this is a different kind of individual. Rather than constantly focusing on ourselves in comparison to others, we need to understand that we are humans. When we realize life isn’t about being perfect, we will adapt to a particular mindset where we will finally allow ourselves to become more collaborative. I say we because this is something I need to work on too. It takes time and it will be difficult. But, don’t stress. It is possible.



I’ve been staring at my computer screen for an hour now and I really don’t know what to write about. Maybe I’m stuck? Just some regular writer’s block? Or maybe I am still trying to ignore the things that haven’t escaped my mind in the past couple of weeks.

Lately, life has felt like a complete roller coaster. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like I’ve finally settled into NYC. I finished planning GGE’s End of the Year Celebration, completed student interviews, and I no longer feel like a lost puppy. While the Moxie program feels a bit more familiar now, home has felt very chaotic and has been consuming my thoughts recently. Between thinking about my parents, friends, and struggling loved ones, it is as if I haven’t been home for years the way new problems continue to pop up. You know what I mean? It’s like issues, even small ones, arise while you are trying to acclimate yourself to a new environment, so suddenly you feel worried, far, confused, and anxious. A city that is really only a 4-hour drive weirdly feels like it is a lifetime away from home. Normally, however, I can keep these thoughts to myself. Sometimes it is easier for me to bottle up these emotions and act like everything is okay. I don’t know why, but it isn’t usually my first instinct to talk to people when I am going through something. I’d just rather deal with it myself and move on. But, Ada and Shannan wouldn’t let that slide.

Last week, Ada and Shannan had the Moxies do a “circle process.” To start off, we all shared something that made us laugh that week. Then, we shared something that was difficult for us at our workplaces. Finally, we all shared something that we were struggling with, whether it was an internal conflict or involved problems at home. That was when the energy in the room took a complete turn around. It became a very intimate, honest atmosphere. As my peers shared their stories, we shed tears, shared hugs, and I felt inclined to share as well. 

As soon as I did, my chest didn’t feel as heavy. I felt supported and my mind felt a bit more clear. Ultimately, this activity showed me that it’s okay to ask for help when needed. If you have worries, share them. If you have questions, ask them.

Truth is, I have so many questions. 4 weeks in and I’ve learned so much, but I continue to wonder about my abilities, GGE, and our enrichment activities.

Now that I’ve completed my first couple of projects, I will now begin planning activities for GGE during Dignity in Schools’ National Week of Action. Essentially, GGE seeks a collective vision of what they would like to see come out of the week across its programs, Sisters in Strength, Youth Women’s Advisory Council, and Urban Leaders Academy. However, I am more nervous for this project than I was for the others. What has GGE already done in the past that they wouldn’t want to repeat this year? Which activities worked? Which didn’t? Will my plans and agendas be enough to conduct productive meetings? Who am I, compared to my coworkers who have been working at GGE for years, to plan an entire week that stands to end school pushout?

One thing we are fighting for is to invest more money in hiring counselors and social workers who will act as a support system and will provide positive discipline tactics when resolving conflict with students. We do not want to have metal detectors and flocks of NYPD police officers who criminalize students in spaces where they should feel comfortable to learn. Today, I actually attended Dignity in Schools’ monthly meeting and I enjoyed talking to other students and organizations about campaigning, what policing looks like in schools, and how we can take the right steps towards dismantling that kind of authority. But, this is an issue that is deeply, systemically embedded in this country. This problem is widely supported by those who are in power. What activities can we plan that will actually make a difference in deconstructing the racial barriers and government action that work against youth of color and LGBTQ/TGNC students? Obviously, change doesn’t happen over night. But, it is easy to feel discouraged at times. 

It’s important to push forward though and to do that, I will keep asking questions. I will try to clarify my confusions and share my worries whether it is about work, my responsibilities, or even family. Sometimes it does feel like I have asked too much. However, if you don’t seek advice, you never know. What is learning if we do not explore our curiosities and refuse to ask the questions that linger in our minds?

“World Building.”

On Sunday, my Moxie group had our first reflection dinner at Ada’s house to discuss how our first week went working at our internships and living in the city. While we were on the topic of homelessness in New York, Shannan brought up something called “world building.” Now, I’ll be honest. I was nodding my head, but through Shannan’s intelligent words and intellectual thoughts, I didn’t understand a thing she was talking about. 

However, as the conversation continued, she made it very clear that in order to create effective change, we cannot work within the systems that marginalize the communities we are advocating for. We cannot properly fight for LGBTQ rights if we are trying to maneuver our way around a heteronormative society. We cannot empower women if we are doing so in ways that allow the patriarchy to exist. We cannot promote racial equality if we support systems that perpetuate white supremacy and continue to place white citizens on a pedestal. With that said, “world building” is the process in which we think of ways that will allow us to gradually dismantle these systems to create a better world for everyone. Rather than focusing on the individual, “tangible” successes like raising money for a charity or giving a homeless person $5, we need to ask ourselves “What would the world look like if it was a place where everyone could thrive despite their race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, etc?” What kind of world do we want to live in? This really resonated with me because after a week of working at Girls For Gender Equity, I can clearly see that this organization is an eminent reflection of “world building.”

GGE has an after school program called Urban Leaders Academy and I spent the past week observing the classes and interacting with the kids who attend. To say I was amazed is an understatement. ULA provides photography, cooking, film, step, and many other different classes that students don’t normally get to take during the regular school day. Students also have the opportunity to take a class where they discuss teen dating, consent, and violence that I did not think so deeply about until college. Additionally, the students have a “purpose” class where the instructor allows them to define what their purpose and position is in this society rather than the white man determining that for them. After sitting in on these classes, I knew GGE wasn’t lying when they said that their mission is to create platforms that will allow young people of color to live self determined lives. I noticed that ULA isn’t some ordinary after school program where kids play games and kill time until their parents come to pick them up. Rather, ULA is a program that shapes future leaders who will create the power they need, that society often strips them of, to create change within their communities and beyond.

In ULA’s film class, the students had the opportunity to film an anti-bullying movie and the day I came to join, they were about to record the last scene which encompassed a protest. The teacher told the students they could make posters with slogans that supported gun safety and suicide prevention, but besides this instruction, the students had full control over what they wanted on their signs. They made beautiful signs that said “Never Give Up Hope” with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on it and many others that I would have never thought about creating at 11 years old.

Take a look at them yourself:












As you can see, GGE is giving their students a voice. Confident ones at that. GGE provides their students with a space to speak on reality and are showing them that a hierarchy should not stop them from calling out racism, sexism, or any form of oppression when they see it. In only the span of a week, GGE and Moxie has taught me that it is not about helping the individual. Creating a better world is not entirely about tutoring students so that they get better grades and can go to college. One step towards a potential utopia would be providing our youth with the tools they need to speak against against barriers, on their own, thereby creating the urge to destroy them at such an early age. Sure. We can have all the juicy, red apples we want. But, if one bad apple can throw off the harvest and poison whole population, how can a few charitable successes fix an entire world?


A Summer of Growth

Good Evening everyone! Or.. Goodmorning? Well, I am sitting at my dining room table and it is currently 2:37 AM. For some reason, my thoughts flow a lot better in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping… like my mother, who I can hear snoring from her room. Yeah, bad habit, I know.

But, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Destiny Mulero and I am a rising sophomore planning to major in Public Policy with a minor in either Sociology or Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist studies. I am from Boston, Massachusetts and I actually lived in Queens, New York for 8 years of my childhood. I have two lovely mothers and a big family from Puerto Rico who always considered me the “baby.” So, going to North Carolina for college was a huge transition and attending Duke has been–or at least I thought it would be–a new milestone into adulthood.

This summer I am very excited to be working with Girls for Gender Equity! In high school, while participating in community service, it did not exactly feel as though I had a team with me. Some students participated because they wanted to fulfill requirements. Some simply wanted something to add to their resume. Even at Duke, I enrolled in Sociology 218 where I learned about how societal norms, language, and nearly everything that has been embedded into our daily lives perpetuate the patriarchy. But, half of the class consisted of unengaged students who claimed to just want “an easy A.” I’m guilty too. I found myself so hyper focused on passing my classes and adjusting to the college life that I lost touch with service and activism. At GGE, however, I am grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with partnered organizations that have a common goal to fight for education reform and to create platforms that allow young girls of color to speak, autonomously, on social justice. Through planning activities for the Dignity in Schools Week of Action, a two-day, national event that advocates to end school pushout, I am ready for a summer full of learning that will discipline me and challenge my ways of thinking. To be honest, I think I am already learning some things. Let me tell you a little story…

In November 2016, Massachusetts voted against expanding charter schools. Since 5th grade, my friends and I attended Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School (APR) so none of us really understood why so many people were opposed to the ballot. I mean, we liked our teachers and most of us turned out great! Even out of Dignity in Schools’ six demands, Demand 6 did not settle well with me at first: “Invest in public education, not privatization and charter schools.” I’ve always been told that charter schools are supposed to advance education and invest in students’ lives in ways public schools don’t. So, I never got the chance to understand this view. But, as I read further, I came across something called the “zero tolerance policy” which brought back vivid memories of my time at APR.

I remember when I started mentoring in the middle school. At our first meeting, I asked my mentee to focus on her homework and her response was that she would fail anyway. Initially, I thought she simply lacked confidence. But, as we continued to meet, I noticed that she complained a lot about how she was always being sent to the office and how she would be put on the detention list for uniform infractions. At the time, I didn’t identify an issue in this because I lived through it, my classmates lived through it, and I thought these rigid rules and punishments were normal. But, I specifically remember my mentee say that she liked to joke around, in class, because it made her forget about her teachers, grades, and detention. So, I’m starting to realize that these strict policies and the societal barriers that play into them had a large impact in my mentee’s academic performance and how she viewed herself in the world. However, I did not make this realization until Dignity in Schools defined the “zero tolerance policy” for me.

That’s how I know working with GGE is going to be an unforgettable experience. Already, I am seeing the flaws in different kinds of education policies and reflecting on past experiences that I have yet to confront.

As ecstatic as I am, I am extremely nervous too. Like I mentioned in the beginning, I thought going to Duke would be a milestone into adulthood. But, really it has been a bubble from reality. Working at GGE will be my very first, real internship. I know I am going to make mistakes, but I don’t want to disappoint my boss. Also, people have been working there for so long! What if I am not knowledgeable enough to be effective in helping GGE achieve their goals?

Additionally, this summer I really have to budget my stipend and learn how to cook. 1. I’ve never cooked a real meal before. 2. How can I possibly budget my spending money if I couldn’t even budget my food points last semester??? I won’t have upperclassmen to sponsor me this time and Marketplace definitely won’t be there to save me so I really have to figure that out. But, I know that by the end of the summer, I will mature more as an adult and gain qualities that I do not obtain now. With that, I can’t wait to bond with my Moxie squad and apply what I learn, this summer, to my future career, my next 3 years in college, and my life afterwards.

For now, enjoy this visual representation of how I’m going to be 3 weeks in because I decided to blow my entire stipend on NYC pizza and souvenirs: