At 17, Jazmin Kay inspired thousands with an article in Seventeen magazine about body image, and at 18, she interned at the White House and wrote passionately about climate change, refugees and foreign affairs for the White House Blog. But those accolades only scratch the surface of this young woman’s ambitions.
The rising George Washington University junior is a recipient of the prestigious New York Women in Communications scholarship, has been featured on the TODAY Show and is the president of her school’s chapter of College Democrats. Between writing, advocating and leading, it’s clear that this eloquent go-getter is destined for greatness.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
To me, my success is measured by how many lives I can positively impact. When I was seventeen, I wrote an article for Seventeen on body image and learning to love all of the many twists and turns that growing up throws at you. When I published that piece, I had women of all ages, from twelve to sixty, reaching out to me about how that article helped them accept themselves for who they are. I knew in that moment that there would never be a greater feeling of fulfillment than using my voice to help others.
Since then, I have been able to interact with people all around the world and hear about how my writing or advocacy has changed their perspective or empowered them. Whether it was for The Huffington Post, MTV, The Nation, Levo, The Center for American Progress or The Obama White House, if my voice could inspire one person to take action or feel less alone that would be a tremendous win. The ability to reach broad audiences across the nation and help people on a larger scale than I could ever have imagined is a tremendous victory I will always feel grateful for.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a college activist and writer covering politics?
If I could be spending every moment of the day creating an organizing guide or writing an article on the causes I am passionate about, I would. Being an activist is not a nine-to-five job and our news-cycle works 24-hours a day. With this there is always a feeling that you could be doing more.
As a college student taking classes, interning, serving as president of the largest College Democrats in the nation (GW College Democrats), and trying to make time to spend with friends or family, I often feel like I am operating on negative time. Learning how to balance my various interests has definitely been something I have struggled with, but I am incredibly lucky to have so many supportive people in my life who help me manage this. As Oprah once said: “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” Learning this lesson has been key to understanding how to most effectively utilize my time to work towards my passions.
Where do you see the future of journalism going, and what excites you about being a part of it?
I think we are right now in an incredibly exciting period of time where we are able to explore new forms of media and storytelling. I think the most noticeable trend is that news is going to become increasingly democratic. With this, people can create more personalized news bubbles, which comes with many inherent problems, mainly around ensuring news is factually-informed.
However, on the other side I think there will be a greater need for centralized news sources and community-building. I also think publications will continue to realize that politics isn’t just a beat; it is a topic that interests and directly impacts the lives of every citizen, of all ages and backgrounds. I am incredibly energized to be a part of a larger conversation on making civic engagement and activism more accessible and easier for people to engage with than ever before.
How did your experience as an intern at the White House Office of Digital Strategy impact your life?
When I decided to go to college in Washington, D.C., I always imagined potentially interning at The White House. However, I never thought that it would become a reality, especially at 18, which is the youngest age you can participate in the program. Working at The White House as the final class of interns under President Barack Obama was an incredibly impactful and eye-opening experience. As a member of the Office of Digital Strategy, I was able to merge my passion for writing and policy in ways I never imagined possible to directly engage with the American public.
Additionally, what my experience taught me most profoundly is that there is no one “correct” trajectory to follow to create change. Creating and implementing change can be a long and tiresome process. If you work hard and are passionate about fighting for what you believe in, you will receive results. It doesn’t matter if you are a student knocking doors or working at the highest levels of government. Your work does make a difference in so many ways, both seen and unseen. Everyone who was serving under President Obama was so deeply committed to helping the lives of the American people and this clearly shined through during my time there. As someone who truly believes in the power of public service as a force for positive change, my experience as an intern at The White House reinforced this belief and my commitment to move the progress that was started under President Obama forward.
Who in your life most inspires you?
While I am almost four years older than my little sister Lotus, she is wiser than I will ever be. My sister is without a doubt one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. She has an ability to see the world in ways most people could never see. She always keeps me honest and will know what is the right thing to do before you can even see it yet. She possesses a sense of pure empathy and kindness at sixteen that I wish everyone could get a sense to experience.
You previously mentioned that as a journalist, you feel it can be easy to be oversaturated and overwhelmed by what’s happening in the news, but that you feel it’s important to take time for yourself. What advice do you have for other collegiettes about making time for self-care?
Right now is a pretty uncertain time for a lot of people. It is easy to turn on the television or see a push-notification pop up on your phone and want to just shut down. This has been one of the most frequent concerns I have gotten from people recently and it is completely valid. I like to refer back to a quote by Audre Lorde: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Taking time to focus on your mental, physical, and emotional health has never been more important. That’s not being inactive: it is actually one of the most essential things we can be doing right now to not let in the negativity and focus on uplifting yourself and others. Personally, I define self-care as listening to yourself, completely and fully. That means if I am feeling overwhelmed, taking the time to focus on things that I enjoy and help me relax. Sometimes, when we talk about self-care we are overcome with thinking about it as performing actions that are “calming.” While these are fantastic outlets, self-care to me is as simple as just listening to and trusting yourself. This is something we can, and should, be doing constantly.
What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a dream?
Your age is an asset, not a liability. Too often young woman are told to “wait their turn” or to wait until they are older to go after something they are passionate about. That is a construct enforced by people who are not ready for all the amazing accomplishments and energy young people bring to the table! If there isn’t the opportunity out there for people your age yet, go start it. There is no time like the present moment to go after what you are passionate about, so be bold, be loud, and be unapologetically you.
What are your top goals and priorities post-graduation?
I am a firm believer in following your purpose, not a career description. One of my friends recently asked me what my five-year plan was. I said I would let them know in five years! So much of what I have accomplished has been by taking a leap and following what causes I am passionate about and seeing where that leads and I hope that is what I will continue to do my entire life.
Since kindergarten, whenever I have been asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I would just respond with “helping others.” This answer still has not changed. I hope to continue to serve my community and foster civic engagement and activism on whatever scale I can post-graduation. Whether that is continuing to share my voice through journalism, creating my own organization focused on young people and civic engagement, working as a spokesperson for a politician, or eventually running for office back home in upstate New York. All I know for sure is that I want to surround myself with the ability to help others and positively affect the world around me and I am incredibly excited to see where that journey takes me.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Energetic. Motivated. Innovative. Compassionate. Resilient.