Crossing Paths With...

//Success Stories

Step Up Teen Pritika

Pritika at Mentoring Summit

Step Up's monthly blog series "Crossing Paths With..." spotlights community members on their paths to success. This month's blog post features Step Up Teen Pritika. Pritika is a high school student located in Frisco, Texas. She plans to pursue a college degree in business en route to a leadership role in public service. Pritika values academics and family, and prioritizes self-care and advocacy work.

How did you find Step Up? What made you get involved?

I found Step Up my freshman year of high school. I was involved in a club at my school, and I got a notification from the club sending out information about an upcoming Step Up program. I have always loved networking with people I have never met because it excites me. I joined the first session and absolutely loved it! In addition to meeting with business professionals, I got to meet peers across the nation, participate in a friendly competition on app design and lead the team presentation. From that event on, I would join a lot of Step Up’s teen events. Sometimes I had so many tests at school the next day, but I still joined the Step Up events because I had fun and they gave me positive energy and motivation. I remember summer of 2022, I had a Home Depot Cybersecurity Women’s Council internship through Step Up, and I felt so inspired by the power of mentoring; I gradually started getting more and more involved with mentoring. I believe Step Up’s work, mission and girl empowerment efforts resonate with my own purpose and values in life, too. 

What is the biggest hurdle when it comes to staying focused and consistent when you are working towards your goals? How do you recalibrate when you feel you are losing focus?

Especially in today’s times, I feel like the biggest hurdle when it comes to staying focused and consistent when working towards your goals is excessive use of the internet– social media, Google, YouTube, etc. It is so easy to get distracted with checking out the “latest reels” or checking your DM’s on Instagram. I have always made it a priority for myself to not get entangled in the “internet web." That is not to say technology should not be used at all because I would say many of the opportunities I currently pursue, I found through the use of technology. Rather what I emphasize is that balance is key and you want to make sure you are only using technology and social media to a point where it enhances your learning, not when it starts wasting your time and distracts you from your goals. I personally feel like I have been able to leverage my potential simply by limiting technology-related distractions because I have so much more time to pursue my goals and passions, while not sacrificing important things like sleep and family time. I feel like another major hurdle that comes when trying to stay focused on your own goals, is comparison to others. It is human nature to see the person next to us and feel like we “aren’t doing enough” and somebody else is better than us, but I feel like that mindset is so draining. Especially in our adolescent years, I feel like we get so caught up on others, that we take attention and time away from our own goals. We should all focus on our own strengths and weaknesses so we can be our best self, rather than the “2.0” version of somebody else. This Mark Twain quote my 8th grade English teacher told me captures this idea really well: “Comparison in the thief of joy." Overall, I personally recalibrate when I lose focus by centering myself on my values, my goals and my aspirations. This focus on what truly matters to me, helps me feel this “urgency” to leave my positive mark in this world, and I immediately stop feeling distracted because I feel like, “I have no time to waste; let me get to work!” I encourage whoever is reading this to try this “self-pep talk method”- it really works!

Which one of Step Up's values do you identify the most with? Why do you identify with this value the most?

I resonate most with the value of “dynamic success." I have my own anecdote to share on this topic: in 5th grade, I ran for Student Council to represent the 3rd graders and I felt so confident because I loved speaking to large crowds and representing my peers. I delivered a speech to the students and was feeling great about my performance. A few days later I got my results back and I was shocked and dejected: I had not gotten into the Student Council! A thousand questions and insecurities ran through my head: Why did I not get in? Was my speech not good enough? Do the 3rd graders not like me? And then I started questioning my own abilities: Am I a bad public speaker? I felt so disappointed by this and started defining my self worth and value based on this one incident. A few days later, I got an email from my 5th grade principal saying that I had gotten into a “Meet the Mayor of Frisco” program, where one student per elementary school is voted and chosen by the teachers and principal to meet the mayor and learn more about the government work he does. I felt surprised to hear that because not getting into Student Council had significantly lowered my self confidence and had made me doubt if I was worthy of getting into some other program. Even though this incident happened around 6-7 years ago, it has stuck with me since then. I have truly learned to not take failure personally because whatever happens, happens for the best. If you don’t succeed in one thing, something better is waiting for you because success is “not just one destination." Our definition for success is constantly evolving and as Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final and failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts!” I have tried to live with this mantra since then, and I take failure as a learning opportunity and stay optimistic that something better is coming my way!

Has Step Up influenced your journey or your development?

Yes! Step Up has been imperative in my life’s journey! I was very engaged with Step Up programs because their vision of equal opportunities and mentoring guidance resonated a lot with my own values: Time flew by and before I knew it, I went from being an active, enthusiastic active member to a Youth Ambassador for the organization: I contributed to creating Career Camps, leading teams, speaking at Step Up’s annual mentoring fundraiser with Hollywood Star, Julie Bowen. In January, I received the 2023 Excellence In Mentoring- Corporate Youth Leadership Award in Washington, DC. In addition to being an honoree, I also met with Senator Cruz’s legislative staff regarding funding for youth mentoring efforts. Time flies when you are having fun, and now it has been around two years since I joined Step Up… Woah, I still cannot believe it! Step Up has given me so many opportunities so I can lead, advocate and represent youth voices at a larger platform. Overall, Step Up has been and will continue to be such an important foundation in my life because it has allowed me todiscover my values and passions and learn more about who I am and what I can do for the community!

What is the best advice you have received from your mentor?

I would say my biggest mentors would be my parents who constantly support and guide me. They are the ones who have taught me from a young age to channel my energy in positive directions and whenever I feel let down or “fall” in life, they are the ones who have taught me to “get up, dust yourself off, and keep trying because nothing is the end of the world." The best advice my parents have given me is “keep doing your work and don’t expect the outcome." I feel like that has been transformative in my life: I am personally a very ambitious person who has big goals and I take the initiative to try new things. Whenever I tried for something, I would always start off with expectations on the outcome and if the outcome wasn’t desirable, I would take it personally and feel my self esteem go down. However, after receiving and using my parents' advice, I feel like I have started to grow more resilient as a person. Expectations always hurt, so I’ve learned to focus more on what is in my “locus of control” rather than focusing on what is out of my control. I have started to focus more on the path and progress to achieve my goals without expecting the outcome. I’ve noticed this approach has made me more persistent, tougher and happier. I encourage readers of this blog to try it!!

If you could cross paths with an influential woman who would it be? Why?

If I could cross paths with an influential woman it would be former First Lady Michelle Obama because she has been my role model ever since I was little. As a young child, I remember first reading about her in the kid book “Who Is Michelle Obama?" I felt so inspired by her advocacy work for education equality, healthy eating and awareness for poverty. I continue to be inspired by Michelle Obama’s work, including her support of the National Corporate Mentoring Honor Roll, which she launched in 2011 to encourage employees to be volunteer youth mentors. I also watch Michelle Obama’s speeches and interviews, and one of my favorite quotes by her is. “Success isn’t about how much money you make. It is about the difference you make in people’s lives." Also, as a woman of color, I felt hesitant to venture into politics in the future; however, Michelle Obama has given me and many youth hope for the future that if you persevere and work hard nothing is impossible. Overall, I really hope in the future I can meet Michelle Obama because I have and will continue to look up to her!

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Pritika has launched her podcast, "Talk it out with Pritika Khawkwal," to further her mental heath and mentorship advocacy. This podcast is a platform for listeners to hear the inspiring stories, experiences, and impact of guests who have dedicated their careers to support these causes. Pritika launched this podcast to amplify and encourage youth to continue fueling change in society.

Pritika's Podcast Links:

Youtube: https://youtu.be/TRhfyHkeSII

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0x04TEGB99ohrLQAlKIgG7

Spotify for podcasters: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/pritika-kharkwal

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/.../talk-it-out.../id1702096922

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/talkitoutwithpritikakharkwal/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61550362521247

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/pritika-kharkwal-3a7882269

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