The following guest blog post was written by Tania Gutierrez, a student and soon-to-be graduate of Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre Mall in Indianapolis. 

What is Systems Thinking? If I’m being completely honest, I’m still not sure. I got the opportunity to participate in the Systems Thinking Forum at Butler University. When I was first asked about going I wasn’t really that excited, but I really wanted to see Butler and who knows, maybe the convention would inspire me. I let my teachers know I was willing to attend. They informed me that not only would they like me to go, but they wanted Gustavo and I to take over the Simon Youth Foundation Twitter account during the forum. I was both nervous and excited about the offer. We talked about what’s expected and my nerves went away. Gustavo and I both agreed.

A few weeks passed by and it was time for the forum. I woke up on time and started getting ready. I tried to put on some make up knowing I would probably be taking a lot of pictures. Gustavo and I arrived to Butler around 8 a.m., we signed in and got our books. We were just standing around waiting for someone to tell us where to go. My nerves started to overtake me. Finally, we got called and placed into a small classroom. There were only teenagers in the room; I was very relieved honestly. We had two instructors, Dianna and Trevor. As they told us a little more about themselves, I couldn’t help but wonder what is Systems Thinking?

We started off by saying our names, age and what schools we went to. My nerves overtook me completely as I said my age and school. I completely forgot to say my name. I felt humiliated. The last person said their name and I noticed that over half of the students in this room went to an international school. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. There were some kids from England, France, Africa, and even Mexico like me. My nerves were overpowered by curiosity. I love being around people who are different. We started some icebreakers and I was actually having fun. Everyone was talking to one another even though we all just met five minutes ago. This was strange for me since everywhere I go I see outsiders. People on the outside trying to get in, me included, but for some reason I didn’t see that in the room. Everyone had a smile on their face including me. After some long laughs we got to the reason we were there.

“What is Systems Thinking?” Dianna asks. She looked so calm and proud. I secretly hope people will see me like that someday. Trevor started by showing us a chart of what Systems Thinking is. At first everyone was very confused. The more they explained the more everyone in the room began to understand and take interest. They put us into groups and explained that we are going to make our own Systems Thinking chart about what affects a student’s success. I was more confused than ever and so was my group. We started with grades. “Grades affect students because it makes them work harder,” says one of the group members. I agreed, but then I heard another girl say, “That’s so not true; when I get a bad grade it makes me want to stop.” In that moment I realized she was right and every little thing doesn’t have just one explanation. A simple sentence can mean different things to different people.

The rest of the time was spent the same way, trying to make our chart and learning how different we all felt.  One thing, just one little stupid choice, can make you lose or win everything you ever wanted. I felt something I’ve never felt before. We were a group of strangers sitting there telling each other what’s hiding in our head. I might never understand what Systems Thinking means, but that’s okay because I know what it means to me. We all walked out that day with a different perspective. From now on, I won’t ask myself Why, but I’ll ask myself How. How did it get here? What actions have I done to put me in this place? I’m very grateful Simon Youth Foundation and Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) gave me this opportunity and I hope this shows Simon Youth Foundation that it was beneficial for me to attend.  At least it was for me.

Tania Gutierrez, student at Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre Mall

SYF is grateful for our partners at Kappa Delta Pi for generously supporting Tania and Gustavo’s participation at the Indianapolis Systems Thinking Forum, presented by the Waters Foundation.