Alumni Who Are Standing Up For What They Believe In

The People’s Music School isn’t just about learning music. It’s also about teaching student confidence, resilience, integrity and determination. More than that, it’s about helping students find their voice.

This December, we talked to a couple college students who are thinking about the changes they want to see in the world long term. Read on to hear TPMS alumni’s visions for the tech industry, education, and the fashion industry, as well as how they plan to make a change.

Frank Nieto:

Diverse Perspectives in Tech

I stand up for as many things as I can, but more often than not, I stand up for the rights of minorities. I stand up with my fellow Latino brothers and sisters. I’m a strong support of Black Lives Matter as well as Indigenous People’s rights.

One change I’m striving to achieve is having more minorities in the tech industry.

During my current time in college, I’ve learned that most of the tech world in the past 50 years has been dominated and occupied by older, white cis men. This has severely affected how technology interacts with our world. There will always be inherent bias in technology, but in its current state, those biases have affected mostly minorities.

I want to make sure that whatever technology and data is being produced is free of negative biases. I also want to lead by example and show other people like me that they can strive to do anything, that they belong in those spaces, and that we have the power to change the world around us.

One of the inspirations to become an activist has been my older brother. He first became a teacher with the intention of showing high school students that a Latino can have a college education and a career and make it far in life. His life plans took him elsewhere after this, and he’s currently on track to getting his masters and becoming a business analyst by the end of this year. He’s been a constant inspiration and role model in my life, always reassuring me when I’ve doubted my place at college. I have a lot to thank him for, and I know he’ll have my back when I join the workforce.

I think being an activist is quite simply, taking action. We all start off somewhere, learning about issues we never knew were going on, and doing the best we can do to make a change. That’s all we can do, try our best. We’ll all find different things to stand for, we just have to find out how our part will help out in the cause. 

The People’s Music School gave me not only an education in music, but an experience you can’t find anywhere else. TPMS exposed me to so many students, parents, teachers and staff of so many different backgrounds. At first it was a culture shock for me, but over the years seeing people of different races and neighborhoods all across Chicago became a norm for me. The amount of diversity at TPMS is something I will always praise and be thankful for. I hope that one day I’ll be able to create and be a part of a workforce that is as diverse as The People’s Music School.

Frank Nieto is an Information and Data Studies major at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, where he received a full tuition scholarship to attend.  Frank is fascinated by data, and what we can learn from it, as well as everything tech industry. While at The People’s Music School, Frank played piano. Frank is particularly proud of deciding on his major, and the opportunity to study it.

The People’s Music School, 2019

Briannah Cook:

Equity in Education and Social Influence

There are a variety of causes that are near and dear to my heart, but two that come to mind are educational equity and increasing the diversity, equity, and sustainability of the social media influencing industry. Having attended both public and private schools in Chicago, I experienced the educational disparities first-hand, and having matriculated to Brown as a low-income student, I see them even more clearly.

Shortly after coming to Brown, one of my best friends and I created a mentorship program for BIPOC students in Providence. Over the course of the school year, we had bi-weekly meetings focused on current events, Black and Brown history, networking, and college prep. The program was incredibly successful, with over 25 mentor-mentee pairings; we are currently re-writing the Constitution for our organization and hope to re-launch it next year. 

In terms of goals for the mentorship program, I would love to grow our membership base, expand our curriculum, and increase the number of schools we are working with. Looking more long-term, I’d love for our program to expand to other schools. 

Educational equity resonates with me because of my own experiences as a student, as well as because of how I was raised. My father has always told me to “pay it forward and pass it on.” I’ve been so blessed by so many incredible teachers, mentors, family members, and friends, and I feel inclined to pay forward the blessings bestowed upon me. 

Social media marketing and influencing is another one of my passions outside of school. I worked as a social media assistant for “From the Top,” a Classical music nonprofit, during my spring and summer semesters. Unfortunately, the industry is wrought with racism, fatphobia, and other forms of algorithmic bias. To address this, my goal is to create a digital platform that pairs diverse college students looking to be brand ambassadors with the companies that need them.

Moreover, the platform would serve as an online community for people to share resources, advice, and experience about the industry. Brand ambassadors would be required to partner with one ethical/BIPOC-owned business for every “standard” company they are partnered with. I am still in the planning stages for my idea, but I hope to work with the Brown Center for Entrepreneurship to bring everything into fruition.

Regarding DEI in the social media industry, I see my business as a potential career path. I want to cultivate an inclusive online community for a diverse array of ambassadors (eventually expanding beyond college students) and ensure that BIPOC-owned businesses, as well as ethical/sustainable businesses have the marketing support they need to thrive. 

Helping to ensure that younger children can see themselves represented positively online, whether in fashion, education, entertainment, or something else, is incredibly important. Social media is more prevalent than ever, and I want to make the online world a more inclusive and safe place. Moreover, I understand the importance of supporting and uplifting ethical, BIPOC-Owned businesses!

I wouldn’t say that any one thing inspired me to become an “activist.” I think that I’ve just followed my passions and interests, which happen to be very community-oriented. 

The People’s Music School definitely instilled a strong sense of community, service, and mentorship in me, and I think those values have stayed with me, even after graduating. I will be forever grateful to TPMS for the people I met, the experiences I had, and the countless things I learned.

Briannah Cook is a Public Health and Entrepreneurship major at Brown University, where she has been featured twice in Brown Alumni Magazine. Since starting at Brown in 2020, Briannah has started a mentorship program, been part of Brown’s Third World Transition Program, and been a teaching assistant in Public Health.

Briannah is also a Bumble Honey Ambassador, the Publicity and Social Media Chair for Harambee House, and a member of Mezcla Latin Dance Company. While at People’s, Briannha played clarinet.

The People’s Music School, 2020

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