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Sixth-Grader Leads From Here with T-Shirt Drive

Like many Ravens, Zara Ali ’27 has embraced the principles of our Lead From Here citizen leadership framework in her own life as well as when she’s at school. Last year, she decided to put those competencies into action to show support for Black Americans during the period of racial tension and the growing visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement. Read Zara’s reflection on her experience Leading Self, Leading With Others and Changing Her World through the design and sale of T-shirts to reach her goal.


Over the pandemic, I started to pay more attention to the news, and I kept hearing stories

of innocent Black men, women and children being the targets of racism and even policy brutality. While I could never understand what it means to be part of the Black community and the struggles they face, I have been a victim of bullying in my past and know what it feels like to be singled out. Based on those experiences, I wanted to do whatever I could to show my support for the Black community and let them know I was standing with them in solidarity. 


Above, Zara Ali ’27 and the T-shirts she created; below, a photo of the letter she sent to the NAACP along with her donation. 

I created a T-shirt design on the Cricut that said, “I may not understand … but with you I stand. Black Lives Matter.” When I wore the shirt, a lot of people asked me where I got it, and I had an idea that I could sell them to other kids that were feeling the same way as me and donate the proceeds to the NAACP. I created an Instagram page to advertise the T-shirts and quickly found that adults wanted to order as well. I used all of my extra time and managed the orders, printed the designs, ironed them on to the shirts and shipped them out with a note of thanks for each order. I set a goal of $1,000 and while I didn't fully reach my goal, I was able to use money I had saved up to make up the difference and mail a letter and check to the NAACP for $1,000. 


The best part of this project was the feeling of doing something to help others that are being treated unfairly. The most difficult part for me was putting myself out there because I didn’t know what the response would be. I think I used all three circles of the Lead From Here framework as I worked on this project. The competency I used to start the project was Leading Self, because I was very motivated to make this a successful project and I had to be accountable for delivering a quality product in a timely manner when people were sending me money for the T-shirts. The competency that was most important to me was Leading With Others. I wanted to be inclusive and empathetic to the Black community, and to be successful I had to step out of my comfort zone to be communicative. Lastly, I think this project gave me a better perspective and played a part in Changing My World because I always want to help others in any way I can, and now I know that I can make a difference. 

View Zara’s video promoting the sale of her T-shirts.