Although the glass ceiling is not yet broken, one Squirrel Hill teen is poised to do it.
Peyton Klein, a freshman at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, has fetched national attention for Global Minds, an after-school program that she initiated last November.
The weekly function, which welcomes roughly 50 students per session, “bridges native English speakers and non-native English speakers” to work on various activities such as discussing international human rights and dispelling common stereotypes, explained Klein.
The program benefits both parties, as ESL students are provided an “additional educational support system” and native English speakers are introduced to different cultures, she added.
More importantly, however, apart from broadening students’ intellectual perspectives, Global Minds has impacted students’ everyday behavior.
Whether it is students “knowing each other’s names, walking together in gym class [or] waving to each other in the hallways,” Global Minds has positively augmented school culture, said Klein.
Providing opportunities for students from all backgrounds to have “that nice conversation in the hallway” is critical, the 15-year-old said, as those conversations enable us “to break those cultural barriers, which is what prepares us for the future.”
But before even venturing that far down the road, “we are combating some of the things that we are experiencing in today’s political climate [such as] isolationism and alienation.”
One’s appreciation of the forward-thinking phenom grows after discovering the origins of Global Minds.
“I worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign for 20 hours a week and was obviously devastated after the election,” she said, “so I needed to channel my sadness and disappointment into something positive.”
And that’s how the teenager conceived of a program that has been featured on “The Today Show” and in The New York Times and Teen Vogue.
“It’s kind of been crazy,” said Klein of the media frenzy surrounding Global Minds. “I wake up one morning and there is an awesome article somewhere! It’s so exciting.”
But what thrills her most about all of the attention is that “it’s allowing teenagers and adults to have those conversations about immigrants and refugees” and that it’s “inspiring teens to start this in their own schools.”
Klein credits CISV (Children’s International Summer Village) and its Pittsburgh chapter with providing her the skills and training to conceive of, develop and organize a program such as Global Minds.
Every year, since she was 11, Klein has traveled with the international organization to “build global peace through global friendship,” she said.
“Peyton is a force of nature. She is such a great addition to our organization,” said Gina Wynn, president of CISV Pittsburgh. “She is positive, industrious and very determined. She started this organization at Allderdice and has students who have rallied around her.”
But Klein’s abilities extend beyond CISV or Global Minds.
“She can motivate others and get them to be passionate about what she believes in,” added Wynn. “If there is ever going to be a female president, then it is going to be Peyton.” (That’s president of the United States of America; Klein is already president-elect of her CISV Pittsburgh Junior Board.)
Unsurprisingly, reaching the Oval Office is on Klein’s radar. When asked what she would like to be, without flinching, the freshman replied, “President,” but also added that a position in politics or social justice is high on her list.
“Her heart is in the right place,” said Wynn. “She is an impressive young lady. She will go far in life. I’m anxious to see where she will be in 10 years.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.