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How one teen met a famous activist

Middle-schooler Kate Reese profiled Cleve Jones for National History Day.

Middle-schooler Kate Reese profiled Cleve Jones for National History Day.


Being a teenager isn't easy, especially when it come to approaching adults. Teenagers can find it particularly difficult to approach adults because of the increased fear of rejection that comes with adolescence.

I have struggled with this fear ever since I was a little girl. It's held me back in everyday life, and has kept me from achieving many goals in the past. This year, at age 13, I decided to take a big step in overcoming this obstacle. Instead of shying away because of fear, I reached out to a famous adult, Cleve Jones.

Jones is a human rights activist specializing in gay rights, union/workers rights, and AIDS activism. He works toward the overall goal of world peace. He founded the famous AIDS Quilt, a 54-ton patchwork quilt commemorating those who have died of AIDS. This is why I chose him as the subject of my National History Day project.

National History Day is a competition in which students from all around the United States compete to create the best project relating to a central, yearly, historical theme. I have been doing it for three years, and I believe it is an excellent way to learn about historical research and discover a topic you're passionate about.

For a month, I researched my topic. After discovering Jones was alive in the Castro District of San Francisco, I decided I had to make a bold move: I needed to contact him about conducting an interview. After all, who would be a better primary source than the man himself?

I hesitantly emailed Jones requesting an online interview. After a few days of waiting, he responded. The results were better than I could have hoped for. Instead of an online interview, he offered to meet in person, in San Francisco.

My dads, my brother and I traveled to San Francisco to meet him. Jones was able to take us on a walking tour of the Castro and provide excellent footage and quotes for the project. It was one of the most memorable days of my young life. I have no regrets about facing my fears of approaching this famous and important adult.

If there's anything you can take away from this, I hope it's that you, a teen who may feel overwhelmed by the idea of possible rejection, can find encouragement that reaching out despite your fears can pay off. If you start now, you will find that shooting the moon gets a little easier every time. Who knows? Maybe you will even get to meet someone famous, like I did.