I am really excited about the latest interview in the student interview series. Emily-Anne Rigal, aka "Schmiddlebopper" is the kind of High School student that makes me regret not attacking life with gusto as a 17-year-old. She is socially conscious, an adept galvanizer and a natural with social media. The term "Digital Native" has become cliche when discussing tech and education, but if the phrase has any meaning, Schmiddlebopper embodies it. I encourage you to check out her digital spaces and see what she has been doing. I'm so glad to have her voice represented in the conversation.
How old are you and where are you from?
I am seventeen years old and live in Williamsburg, Virginia.
You have already started so many interesting projects; which ones are you most proud of and why?
I am most proud of WeStopHate because it has been entirely my own doing, from the creation to execution, so I feel closest to it – WeStopHate is like my baby! I am also incredibly proud of “Schmiddlebopper,” my online persona. I have been creating YouTube videos and blogging on social media since my freshman year of high school under the username “Schmiddlebopper.” I interact online with my “Boppers” every day (through twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, etc) and they inspire me to continue posting.
Tell me about WeStopHate.org and what it is like getting media attention at your age?
WeStopHate is a nonprofit program I started in March 2010 to raise “teen-esteem” (self-esteem in teens) through online videos and social media. Ultimately, WeStopHate combats bullying because we believe that teens that are happy with themselves are not going to put others down. Currently, WeStopHate is the 28th Most Subscribed YouTube Nonprofit Channel, having received nearly 400,000 video views. MTV, Seventeen Magazine, and many other local and national media outlets have featured WeStopHate. The media attention has been a positive experience because it allows me the opportunity to share my work with other young people. My hope is that learning about WeStopHate will inspire more teens to take action about the causes they care about.
How important is it to be a good collaborator when taking on these challenges?
Collaboration is essential because it enables growth and expansion, while also bringing more value to the project and experience overall. WeStopHate would certainly not be what it is today without the help of my friends, mentors, and volunteers because each person who contributed to the project brought with them their own unique skill set and strengths. An obvious example is WeStopHate’s use of user-generated content because vast majority of our videos are created by teen YouTubers. Had we not collaborated with these teens, the fundamental aspect of WeStopHate (teens helping teens by giving them a platform to share their story with other teens) would not exist.
How do you communicate with friends (before and) after school . . . IM, text, social media? Does the connection to your friends ever stop?
We communicate constantly (morning, day, and night) because we use our phones throughout the school day, even though it’s technically not allowed. Since we have smart phones with social media applications, we stay connected not only through texting, but also through Facebook and Twitter, as most of us update regularly throughout the day. Connection rarely stops unless someone consciously puts away their phone and computer.
Your website emilyannerigal.com is an incredible space. In education terms, you have an amazing "e-portfolio." Do you think these types of spaces are more important than resumes? Do you think they demonstrate learning better than multiple-choice tests or essays?
Being a self-proclaimed SMM (a term I coined meaning “social media maniac”), I definitely have a bias answer, but yes, demonstrating online competence is important and useful for getting ahead. Employers and/or potential clients often Google the people they are considering, so having an online presence (assuming it accurately portrays who you are and the message you would like convey) will likely leave them with a good impression regardless of one’s field. I believe people who are actively engaged online with their audience or experts in their field have a stronger sense of what is going on in their area of interest. This type of knowledge far outweighs that of irrelevant (and often memorization-required) multiple choice tests and essays. It's not easy for a girl that's filled with imagination and curiosity to sit and listen to dull history lessons.
Check out the previous interviews in the series:
Todd Oh 17-year-old App developer from South Korea
Lane Sutton 14-year-old entrepreneur