Hi! My name is Wyatt Buckner, and I’m a Riley’s Way interviewer. I am a junior in high school and was a Call For Kindness judge last year (2022). I resonate with the mission of Riley’s Way and can’t wait to help share more about the Call For Kindness Fellows in the future.
Hi Jae! What was the moment that really sparked the idea of Grow Kindness?
I began my non-traditional learning at a very young age. I joined a non-profit organization called Love a Sea Turtle, which focuses a lot on environmental and ocean conservancy, but over the years, we developed into a youth leadership development and voice platform as well. I was able to lead my own project, the “better bag solution,” which aims toward the reduction of single-use plastic bags. While I was working, though, I was also able to work in the community garden and orchard program. This was a really wide-scale event that partnered with many different organizations, and while doing it for many years, I learned that gardening is a very sustainable yet engaging method of volunteering. This really made me ask, “what can I do to create more impact, especially in the younger generations?” Because our younger generations are what’s going to save us. This led me to start the Grow Kindness project, with a goal to work with lower and middle school students and teach them the impact of their conservation efforts, as well as agricultural knowledge. Having those experiences at a young age with so many projects was what really motivated me to create something new with Riley’s Way.
What has the reception been to your actions in your community?
The kids were very grateful, and because of their age, they are often more engaged than adults because they care more about the little things in life. I also found that the teachers and administration at the Greensboro Montessori school were also very appreciative of me and my team’s actions. The soup kitchen has been very grateful and loves collaborating with younger kids. We’ve been in partnership with them for quite some time now, so it’s great to see some new faces helping out there.
What do you do in your free time when you’re not helping to run Grow Kindness?
I spend a lot of my time working with my other organization, the “Better Bag Solution,” and have been since I delivered a speech to the city council on November 10th of 2016. I am a lead mentor and member of the youth advisory council for Love a Sea Turtle, and for fun, am an avid golfer and have been for four years. I love going down to the beach and hanging out with friends, and I try to pick up hobbies when I can. Right now, I’ve been getting more into reading, and am reading a Korean novel called Love In the Big City by Sang Young Park right now. I got into reading Korean novels as they are a way to enjoy a book, but also to appreciate my culture and practice my Korean. There’s an English translation as well.
What is one fun fact you would like us to know about you?
I am bilingual, was born out of the country, and immigrated here when I was three. (Jae is fluent in Korean and was born in Seoul, South Korea.)
What does kindness mean to you? Is there one moment that stood out to you that exemplifies this?
Kindness, to me, is giving more than you can take. A major part of Love a Sea Turtle is our outdoor free summer camps, which we offer to underprivileged kids in the Wilson area. At a young age, I’ve been able to teach someone how to ride a bike and how to swim, and I started my own golf camp recently as well. Grow Kindness is a way for me to exemplify this kindness. Sure, it’s beneficial for me, but more importantly, it’s a way to give back to others and give them opportunities that they normally wouldn’t be able to have and that we take for granted.
Following up on that, what does Riley’s Way mean to you?
Riley’s Way is a foundation for me to talk with similar like-minded youth and is a way to gain a fresh perspective on Grow Kindness, which is always a great thing to have. I love being a part of their program and look forward to what’s coming next.
Has participating in Riley’s Way changed your perspective on activism at all?
I would definitely say so. I’ve never been a part of something as large scale as it, and having that credibility and community supporting me and being a mentor figure has been extremely beneficial.
Was there ever a moment where you felt overwhelmed and got the feeling of “I can’t do this?” If so, how did you push through it?
100%. When you do this for half of your life, there are times when it becomes challenging. You know it’s the right thing to do, but there are times when you feel that you’re tired and that you can’t do it much longer. I had this reevaluation moment when I asked, “Am I doing this for myself, or am I doing this for others?” And that is something that my parents had engraved in me at a young age, and it took me a while to understand what that truly meant. When I was just going through the motions, my fire diminished, but when I took the time to think about the meaning behind my actions, it reignited my passion for helping. That’s definitely needed when you get tired, but when you see the joy and glee on other people’s faces because of your actions, it’s all worth it.
Where are you with Grow Kindness at this point in time? Where would you like to see it go?
I am a current senior in high school and will be attending university in the fall. My team consists of about four or five people, and two of my team members will be appointed to lead after I leave for college, and will innovate the project by installing bee hives in our garden beds soon. They are both beekeepers and are ready to help implement them in the next phase of Grow Kindness. I don’t see Grow Kindness going anywhere anytime soon.
Do you have any future career aspirations?
In the future, I hope to keep an open mind when it comes to my major, but I hope to double major in business administration finance and economics and get an MBA at some university in analytics.
How can people reach you to help or participate, if possible?
I have an Instagram for my project and Love A Sea Turtle. I have a website, Instagram, and Facebook.