You Matter 2 founder Destiny Watson’s outreach impacts peers, community

Nearly five years after founding You Matter 2, a service organization at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Destiny Watson is still passionate about helping to improve the lives of others.

Destiny Watson pitches in at the annual car wash  fundraiser, which helps raise money for school supplies that are distributed at the organization's Back to School Bash. (Provided photo)
  Destiny Watson pitches in
  at the annual car wash
  fundraiser, raising money for
  school supplies distributed at
  the organization's Back to
  School Bash.
(Provided photo)

Watson, now a junior at the University of Dayton, recently traveled to the Central American nation of El Salvador as part of her human rights studies. The experience, she said, was “eye-opening.” 

Now she is focusing her current advocacy efforts on the livelihood of immigrants, a subject at the heart of the current national debate. 

“We talked about what these families go through to even try to come to the U.S.,” Watson said. “It made me feel like I should be doing more for immigrants that come here. Chicago is a popular destination; for immigrants to have someone actually hear their stories feels like it could make an impact.”

Watson says that her university studies have complemented her passion for the immersive experiences that strengthen outreach. 

“When I graduate, I want to take students from our community to other areas of the world to see how they live and listen to their stories,” she said.

Watson says a Snowball program during her freshman year at H-F catalyzed her journey toward service and advocacy.

“I loved being able to have an impact on the younger kids. The program was really important to me,” she said. “I became driven to do more for my community.”

Destiny Watson, left, leads a group of teens in an activity at a meet and greet/orientation even for prospective members of You Matter 2. (Provided photo)
  Destiny Watson leads a group
  of teens in an activity at a
  meet-and-greet event for
  prospective members of
  You Matter 2.
 (Provided photo)

Today, Watson says her journey can be defined by a single word: “progression.” 

Her mother, Heather Hill School teacher Tamika Britten, describes Watson as someone who has “always been modest about her accomplishments.”

Watson was inspired to found You Matter 2 after she got word of the first ever We Day celebration coming to Illinois in 2015. Britten says that once her daughter learned Demi Lovato would be performing she was moved to action.

We Day is a celebration of youth committed to service. The organization selects youth to attend the event among celebrities and performers, based on their community outreach efforts. Once Watson got wind that We Day Illinois was underway, she threw her hat in the ring; she launched You Matter 2 in 2014, her sophomore year at H-F.

Britten said the organizers were smitten with Destiny the second she shared her vision.

"We Day Illinois hosted a dinner and Destiny was invited to speak. There were some celebrities there, like (basketball great) Magic Johnson. After giving her speech, he was so impressed by the work she was doing, that he stood up on a whim and said, ‘I’m gonna pay for her school,’” Britten said. “She’s in her third year now, and we haven’t paid a dime for her tuition.”

Members of You Matter 2 deliver cookies to Glenwood police, one of the organization's community service projects. (Provided photo)
  Members of You Matter 2
  deliver cookies to Glenwood
  police, one of the organization's
  community service projects.

  (Provided photo)

While she was in high school, You Matter 2 won the support of the Chicago Community Trust, a regional umbrella group that backs charitable and social service organizations. 

But it isn’t just Watson’s passion that sets her service work apart. She harnesses the power of simulation to evoke empathy in her volunteers.

In the case of her 2018 Oxfam Hunger Banquet, Watson simulated the circumstances that affect people globally, to make the event that much more impactful. 
“We always try to provide some sort of simulation. When you present to people that this is what life is like without these things, it adds more importance. At the hunger banquet, participants pulled a random card of high, middle or low income, and were given a meal based on their income status. People walked away feeling more grateful and motivated to help the community in that area.”

Watson finds that an additional benefit of simulations is their ability to check privilege.

“Instead of coming from a place of privilege when you’ve done a good deed just because you can, simulations give a better understanding of what another person is going through and where they’re coming from,” she said. “Because for a moment, you’ve felt it.”

Watson’s vision for a world changed by its citizens has left a marked impact on the members of You Matter 2. H-F senior Lauren Donaire, the group’s vice president, calls Watson’s enduring optimism “courageous.” 

You Matter 2 President Michael Humphrey finds Watson’s leadership pushes him to embrace the fullness of his role.

“It has been challenging trying to do more beyond just our community, trying to expand our impact. Destiny taught me that,” he said. “That it’s important to go even beyond your own community.” 

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