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Teens Take Action: Meet Jahlil Kirby

Local teens make change happen

Published on: April 27, 2018

Jahlil Kirby

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You don’t have to look far these days for an example of a teen taking action. From March for Our Lives to #MeToo, young people are making positive change happen — and they’re doing it in our very own city.

You’ve already met a few of these changemakers. Every month since January, we’ve profiled a local teenager who’s making a difference. Many are involved in the Gates Foundation Discovery Center’s Youth Ambassadors Program (YAP), a year-long service learning program for high school students designed to educate, engage and empower youth.

Still more have found other ways to improve their communities. We’ve highlighted several YAP members in recent installments of our ongoing series, Teens Take Action; this month, we talk to Jahlil Kirby, a student at Lincoln High School who’s pursuing his love of music. 

Editor's note: This article was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationThe interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Who am I?

I’m Jahlil Kirby. I’m 18 and a junior at Lincoln High School. I recently worked on a guitar and spoken word performance for the 2018 Teen Action Fair at the Gates Foundation Discovery Center.  

I’ve also attended a program at MoPOP for the past two years and plan to do it again this summer. It’s called The Residency and focuses on youth development through hip-hop. [The Grammy Award-winning musicians] Macklemore and Ryan Lewis created it. Basically, the program takes a bunch of kids in King County and introduces them to the music industry, from sound production to writing lyrics. They also pay you a small stipend.

It’s one of the coolest programs I’ve ever seen. I learned a lot about the music industry, networking and how to present myself. They showed me how to make music a business rather than a hobby. They increased my skills and confidence to talk to people about my music.

What I'm up to

I’ve been involved with music since I was 8 years old. I’ve always wanted to do as much as I can with it. I started by playing the guitar. I wanted to be the next Jimi Hendrix; the first song I learned on the guitar was “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

I wanted to spread out, too, so I started playing the trombone in seventh grade. I do everything that I can to improve my music skills and practice all the time! 

Want to get involved, too? What I recommend

Honestly, I think you should just do whatever you’re interested in. There are too many free ways to learn about what you want to do. For example, I learned a lot about music production from watching videos on YouTube. Just get out there and do what you can. Be a learner. 

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