At 16-years-old, Destiny Helligar is already making history within Los Angeles. The Destiny Education project is a 501c3 non-profit, founded by Helligar, that works to remove racism, discrimination, and White supremacy from Los Angeles area school districts.
After being targeted of racist attacks by fellow students in middle school, the young visionary turned her traumatic experience into power and change, giving other students opportunities to learn and appreciate, rather than discriminate.
The Destiny Education Project has a strong mission to empower school boards, teachers, administrators, and even parents to elevate public education by disrupting, while enriching, educational models for learning. Thanks to Destiny’s strong voice, many school districts and schools are taking finer looks at their curriculums, policies, and operations in general.
“Our education systems are based on a very long line of racism that’s been in this country since America started. So, unless there’s some change or reform, it’ll still be the same system carried out when people first came to the U.S,” she told the Los Angeles Sentinel.
Destiny is currently working with the Burbank Unified School District to update the CORE curriculum. Her organization has donated $1,000 to John Muir Middle School and Edison Elementary’s libraries to diversify their book collections. They also work with the Black Student Union at John Bureau’s High School, taking them on field trips and donating money for fundraisers and supporting their peer-to-peer reading group with elementary school students. As a result of her resilience, she’s also helped facilitate her school’s Indian mascot signage being covered up.
“[In the peer-to-peer reading groups] we did a special event for Black History Month, where we read different story books about what it’s like to be Black and the Black experience.”
Is her work easy? Destiny proves that creating change is a job that takes true hard work and dedication. Especially in today’s times of social unrest, Destiny has received complications in trying to enrich her community.
“The biggest challenges with the organization have been pushback from different members of the community or members in the school districts who believe we don’t need DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) work.”
When asked about the challenges she faces in operating her own non-profit so young, she explained how there are times when being a young founder of an organization has its challenges.
“It’s been difficult navigating the world of advocacy and business as a teenage girl. A lot of people don’t take you seriously, or they don’t think what you’re taking about is as important as something else because of who you are.”
However, with advocacies challenges comes great rewards. Destiny is confident in the work that she’s doing for the Black community and is aware of her activism breaking barriers.
“When reading with the elementary school kids, I loved seeing their faces and how excited they got. We often heard ‘Wow! Her hair in the book is so beautiful!’ or ‘That character looks just like me!”
She recounted, “Seeing the difference in how they’re experiencing Black culture now versus how I experienced it growing up is the greatest accomplishment of what I’m doing.”
Through her non-profit, Destiny hopes to show other young people that anything they do to enrich their community is imperative. “You don’t have to start a 501c3 or even join every club in your school. You can make change in any way you’re able to. Just because your contribution isn’t as big as someone else’s doesn’t mean it’s not just as important.”
In 2022, The Destiny Education Project is working on connecting students with more opportunities and better education. They’re also still working on changing curriculums to include more knowledge that resembles the world today. Destiny is also currently working on “Custodial Appreciation Day,” a recognition event scheduled for May 2022.
Even with all her success, Destiny plans on continuing her education after high school to a four-year university, studying film making and computer science, while continuing her skin care business, AFTERLITE BODYCARE, which she started at 11-years-old. Through her activism, she is an inspiration to all that it doesn’t matter the age, change is something that can be done by anyone.
Starting a foundation is no easy feat, especially as a teenager, but the injection of youthful exuberance is exactly what the non-profit sector needs. For more information on The Destiny Education project visit: https://www.thedestinyeducationproject.org/.