“My greatest weakness became my greatest strength,” Dodani said. “I went from being super shy and insecure to giving speeches in the L.A. courthouse in front of 200 people.”
Dodani began to speak at local high schools in California, where he received a high level of positive feedback and decided to pursue social entrepreneurship.
Through My Name My Story, Dodani and his team launched Changemaker Days in California and the East Coast. The program teaches middle and high school students how to develop empathy and apply it to leadership. It entails a one-day curriculum that encourages introspection and provides students with the tools to be leaders in their communities.
“The day before a Changemaker Day, a member of the team will visit the school and gather a group of 20 to 30 students. Depending on the school, the students chosen could be teacher-nominated, club leaders, sports captains or other student organization leaders,” Dodani said.
During a Changemaker Day, the students run the activities that My Name My Story plans. Dodani said using the method of peer education and discussion is more effective than talking like a teacher.
“Young people listen to young people,” Dodani said. “In our Changemaker Days, we talk with you, not at you.”
The central focus of the day revolves around understanding one’s own story, the stories of others and how to use these stories to effectively address problems in the community.
Junior James Dockery, the marketing and communications manager of the North Carolina branch of My Name My Story, said kids often have all the answers, but they don’t always have a way to act on them.
“We want to know how we can create something special with everyone’s perspective in mind,” Dockery said. “Changemaker Days encourage students to look at problems they face daily, such as bullying in the school cafeteria, and ask them to search for ways to address this problem.”
Dockery described an example of one the exercises they practice with the students. Participants pair up and alternate sharing their highlights and low points from the past week.
Then they have to repeat the sad moment their partner shared using the first person, as if those moments had happened to themselves.
“It’s a reflective exercise,” Dockery said. “It’s about, how good am I at putting myself into someone else’s shoes? What words do I choose? What emotions do I feel?”
Senior Janie Price, graphic designer for Changemaker Days, said the minute she heard about the program she wanted to get on board.
“My Name My Story has given me some of my best friends, and it’s also given me the courage to act in large groups, to be president of my sorority and to be more involved in class,” Price said. “It’s made me become better friends with people and just act with a newfound sense of love for everyone else.”
The My Name My Story team is currently brainstorming a structure to recruit people who will continue the program once the current team members graduate, but the organization will most likely remain unaffiliated with the University.
“We never saw the need to become an official club,” Dodani said. “We wanted recruitment to be super natural rather than people just doing it for a line on their resume.”