Teaching Tolerance, Reducing Child Abuse with Bugs: 5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview with Tiffani Alexander

First published here on the After School Blog

“You may not take seriously my goals and my plans, but when you see everything come to fruition, you have to take me seriously.” — Tiffani Alexander

There’s no minimum age required to make a difference, but we’re used to expecting more from adults than we are from children and teens. Tiffani Alexander shares, “a lot of times you come across people who don’t see the power in you. They don’t see the power in being so young and wanting to be so involved in changemaking.” Through Alexander’s work, her power has been proven.

As a teen, Alexander combined her passion for entomology with her interest in discussing challenging topics with children, and launched Butterflies, Beetles, Bees, Oh My! “Butterflies, Beetles, Bees, Oh My! is a bug club I use to teach children about difficult topics like tolerance or even child abuse, and issues in our community,” says Alexander.

After School spoke with Tiffani as part of the “5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker” Interview Series with partner Peace First. The series includes teens who have made an impact on the world.

Alexander uses entomology to connect with her young audience and teach them about issues in society. By showing how bugs react to situations, like danger, children can learn how to react and what is and isn’t okay.

One of the lessons taught is on child abuse. “I started in the first place to address child abuse…to enable kids to address issues without making them seem super difficult to talk about,” says Alexander. Using beetles that make loud noises when they feel threatened, she discusses uncomfortable situations with children. With these topics rarely discussed in a child’s life, Alexander saw it as the foundation of her mission. “Child abuse is something no one really talks about, and nobody talks about it with children, and that was something I wanted to address early.”

Alexander is a member of Peace First, which helps teach and empower youth to take action on issues they’re passionate about now instead of waiting until they grow up. Asked how someone can start making an impact in areas they’re passionate about, Alexander says to take the following steps:

  1. Research what you’re passionate about. It’s really important to understand the size of what you are taking on when you decide to be a changemaker.
  2. Talk to the adults who are present in your life about what you want to do.
  3. Develop a support system of people that can help you foster your ideas and be as creative as possible.

Another key to Alexander’s efforts has been not giving up, regardless of what people have told her. “Being someone so young I get told no all the time…you’re gonna hear a lot of no’s.” Working through those no’s has led her to impact the lives of hundreds of children.

Alexander sees her relationship with Peace First as, “extremely helpful because they give you all the tools you need to get started in your peace work. They have the resources to not only help get you started in your work, but to sustain you.”

Keep up with the efforts of teens and young leaders and launch your own peace initiative starting with a visit to PeaceFirst.org

More from Tiffani Alexander:

  • “I incorporate lessons with entomology with lessons about life skills and lessons about tolerance.”
  • “My parents have always instilled in me–if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.”
  • “Try to be hands on in life, and approach things in a hands-on manner.”
  • “A lot of times you come across people who don’t see the power in you, they don’t see the power in being so young and wanting to be so involved in changemaking. It’s an ‘I can show you better than I can tell you mentality.’”
  • “When you identify that there is an issue with something that you are passionate about, you take action in any way that you can.”
  • “There’s no such thing as failure as long as you’ve legitimately learned something out of an experience.”
  • “Staying focused is so important; remembering why you do what you do is invaluable.”
  • “Make sure you take time for yourself; it’s really, really easy to become drained.”

Read more from the 5 Minutes with a Teen Difference Maker Interview Series: