Profiles in Regeneration: Ursula, 19, US

The sense of camaraderie fostered in middle school and high school is truly touching to bear witness to. The energy buzzing between walls, filled with new ideas and a reverence for learning, brings an air of community.

Young people all around the world are working to build a regenerative future. At 19, Ursula Jitta is one of those people. She wants to establish a K-12 school in NYC that keeps the needs of youth of color paramount, creates a safe space for all nationalities, sexualities, and gender expressions, centers holistic and historically accurate methods of education, and offers community integration programs for at-risk youth. The building will have a fully staffed, free-of-charge clinic for students and members of the community. The space would double as a tutoring and community center on off-hours, providing maternity care, auxiliary educational opportunities, internships, workshops, and much more.

Regenerative Futures: How are you feeling right now?

Ursula Jitta: Calm yet unsettled.

RF: What’s a secret your search history can tell us about you?

UJ: I have a deep love of astrophysics, almost obsessive.

RF: What are you reading/learning about at the moment?

UJ: I am currently reading the Bhagavad Gita, trying to learn to embrace stillness in times that may feel pernicious.

RF: Who is your favorite human and why?

UJ: My favorite human is my little sister. She is one of the brightest, most resilient I have ever met, and every day she inspires me with her unparalleled love for everyone around her.

RF: Which key moment inspired you to start your project?

UJ: I don’t know if there ever was a “moment” when I realized our current state is inextricably tied to the exploitation of Black people. [Rather, it was like] a slow weight on your shoulder—you’re not quite aware of it until you’re doubled over, unable to breathe. The sad thing is, I could write about the microaggressions I’ve experienced and watched at the hands of doe-eyed, young, liberal professionals; the increased police presence over the course of my four-year tenure at an inner-city high school; the lack of funding for essential supplies, SAT prep, and college-readiness courses; the protests organized against the school-to-prison pipeline, a construct felt but never taught. I could write about the day I truly understood why my mother always told me “you have to be a hundred times as good to even step in a room”; as a grown woman this brings tears to my eyes, because sometimes it feels like the only thing changing is time.

RF: In two years’ time, what would success with your project look like?

UJ: Ideally, the school will have a far-reaching impact. It’ll be in session and functioning separately from the community center and in-house clinic (where everything from maternal care to mental-health services will be offered 24/7). At this point, we will be expanding community aid centers and urgent care in marginalized areas throughout the city as well, with community mediators, groceries, housing, employment, and financial resources. I want the school to serve as a bastion of the community—a jump-off point for abolition.

RF: If you could focus a large percentage of government funding on one industry or project for the next five to ten years, which would you choose and why?

UJ: I think the single most pressing issue besetting our mortality is climate change. With conglomerate corporations being responsible for 71% of global emissions, the fate of our future has been gently placed in the hands of oligarchs. We have been walking a thin line for the past 25+ years, and every day the fight to rectify this damage becomes more and more pressing. Divesting from harmful ecological practices and consumption and instead investing in renewable energy, bioengineering, sustainable agriculture, and green technology is a mammoth undertaking, but a necessary one in ensuring a safe and livable future.

RF: What is the best and worst thing about the education system in your country?

UJ: The sense of camaraderie fostered in middle school and high school is truly touching to bear witness to. The energy buzzing between walls, filled with new ideas and a reverence for learning, brings an air of community. One of the most beautiful things we can experience is gathering to share knowledge — it’s human tradition. It unites us, the familial tenderness that looms in a classroom. That’s one of the only comforts awarded to marginalized youth working through the American education system. This system, which has morphed to continue a legacy of segregation and exploitation, is a moving piece in the tapestry that is institutional oppression. I do not believe in reform; I believe in abolition. I believe in allowing young people to be young people, not funnels for the state to use and abuse.

RF: Do you have a message for anyone your age living in the year 2060?

UJ: Embrace change as it comes, and do the best that you can. Be content with your actions; know you cannot make anyone do what they do not wish. Every day try to be as happy as you can, whatever that may mean for you. Be a good person, and always put yourself first.

RF: What inspires or frightens you most about the future?

UJ: The thing that inspires me most about our future is also the thing that petrifies me the most: we are in control. The slow degradation of our planet has been in our hands, and the gargantuan clashes of mankind have all been at the hands of mankind. We create our bliss, yet we are also our own undoing.

To learn more about Regenerative List finalist Ursula Jitta, click here.



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Regenerative Futures

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Regenerative Futures is a Gen Z-designed model for a world built upon the principles of equity, fluidity, and sustainability. An Irregular Labs initiative.