While participating in Culture of Care her sophomore year as the focus area director for Sexual Well-Being, recent IU graduate, Maya Wilson-Fernandez decided to put the I Am Worthy Project to test. The project is focused on identity and empowerment and showcased through performing arts and photography.
“I was feeling a lot of things during that time, pretty much all negative, and it was really intense,” said Wilson-Fernandez. “I wanted to do something about it, and I realized that it all boiled down to the fact that people's worth lost value, which made it seem like people didn't belong here in this country, and so I wanted to do something about it and celebrate people.”
Like many start-ups, the I Am Worthy Project, began small, but eventually transformed into a welcoming community organization. Wilson-Fernandez took a break from the project her junior year, but she started it again her senior year with a goal-driven mindset and a collaborative team effort to make this project stand on its own rather than be a part of another organization.
To gain more assistance and growth for the project, Wilson-Fernandez reached out to multiple departments and scholarship programs on campus and asked them to post the team job openings through their email newsletters.
That’s when this project sparked interest to Daniela Molina, another recent IU graduate who reached out to Wilson-Fernandez regarding the open Project Designer position. Molina was in charge of choosing and interviewing models, along with any creative works associated with videos or social media.
“I joined this project because I was going through a time where I felt unworthy, because of someone else, so I thought the project was something that I extremely needed,” said Molina. “I think it's really important to empower those around you, and I've always been one of those people that push for that, so I thought that what I gained from this project is not only a bigger perspective of that but appreciating people and photography as well.”
On April 14, the I Am Worthy Project had its opening night, which involved a photo exhibit with voluntary models that revealed themselves along with an essential item that empowers them. Molina asked the models a series of questions in which their answers appeared as captions in the photo series. Opening night also included various student performances such as dances and comedy routines.
“I think my favorite part was that I didn't expect my team to become as close as we did,” said Wilson-Fernandez. “They were basically the only people I really talked to most of the semester.”
Wilson-Fernandez and the rest of the I Am Worthy team hopes to have this photo series archived for people to look back on the organization and photography to remember what’s important.
“Also, creating an environment where people feel comfortable, perhaps even having our own location on campus where people can come to relax, talk, and help each other grow," said Molina. “I think this also serves as a model for other universities and other colleges to use if they are experiencing the same issues we are facing here with the lack of diversity, the lack of inclusion, or the lack of people being open when telling their stories.”
Even though Wilson-Fernandez graduated this past May, she plans on continuing this project with intentions of passing the torch to another dedicated director enrolled at Indiana University, and also is in the process of producing a documentary for this project.
“I'm hoping by the end of the summer it will be ready, but things are kind of up in the air right now,” said Wilson-Fernandez. “I would like to release this in the fall and have a release event.”
The I Am Worthy Project, is a growing non-profit organization that invites anyone and everyone to tell their stories, no matter what background.
“Everyone feels unworthy at some point, especially in college where you have a bunch of pressure and you are stressed out about a million of things,” said Molina. “This is a way for people to talk about it without feeling like they’re put in a box, ‘Oh you’re depressed, you’re in this box,’ or ‘Oh you have low self-esteem you’re in this box,’ it's just a way for everyone to fit in one box.”