Student Ambassador Interview Series: This is part of a series of interviews with our Ambassador scholarship recipients, awarded to exceptional high school learners who have the drive and determination to pursue their dreams and make a positive difference. We hope you find their stories as inspiring as we do! Click here to read the earlier interview with Student Ambassador Sarankorn Pu P.
Meet Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, our Student Ambassador who shares her learning experiences at VERSO and talks about her first published book, BE THE CHANGE;. Find out more about how Kyoka, whose name in Japanese means “building bridges” and “connecting”, is embarking on a journey to become a changemaker.
What do you like about the learning and teaching at VERSO International School in Bangkok?
VERSO for me is a reform movement of traditional education systems. VERSO allows us to personalize our learning and prepare for the future through the way instruction is designed. It allows me to develop new skills and learn something new every day, and most importantly, it has opened up new opportunities for me.
How has VERSO brought out the best in you and/or supported your passion?
From the moment I had my first interview at VERSO, I felt like the school fully supported my dreams and passions by giving me the time, space, and opportunity to discover and learn more about my passions in activism and entrepreneurship. VERSO has made me more confident and taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and step out of my comfort zone. Because of the great support and encouragement I received from the VERSO community, I was able to become an author at the age of 16.
Being a cross-cultural kid has always been a challenge for me, especially considering how much western culture I was exposed to growing up. As a kid, I always felt insecure when speaking Thai because I did not think I was good enough. However, with the support of my Thai class and talking to new parents during school visits and telling my story, my Thai has improved significantly, giving me more confidence and knowledge about my culture
I am also fortunate to have a learning designer who has been with me through all the ups and downs since I started my international high school journey at VERSO. She has always encouraged me to do what I love and has been a wonderful inspiration to me. Her positive energy, mindset, and open-mindedness have always taught me a lot and helped me grow as a person.
Kyoka and her team at the final round of VERSO HACK 2023, held in February 2023 that saw over 100 students from over 30 schools across Thailand participate in the annual student hackathon organized by VERSO. This year's theme focused on sustainability in three verticals: fashion, tourism, and plastic waste management.
How would you describe VERSO in three words or phrases?
A school that (1) reimagines education, (2)allows us to explore and discover ourselves, the world, our passions and more, and (3) a place where we learn how to learn.
What does a Student Ambassador scholarship mean to you?
The scholarship at this American international school has given me the opportunity to network, explore my personal and cultural identity, and discover the world around me. It has also given me the opportunity to advocate for change in education and many other areas, such as LGBTQIA+, climate change, etc. and allows me to connect with people and learn how to achieve lifelong learning.
What areas are you involved in on campus?
As a VERSO Ambassador, I have been involved in various projects and events on campus, such as school tours with the admissions team, working with the marketing and communications team at PR, and many other projects. I am also the main singer in the band, and a swimmer on the school swim team. I also pursue other activism and change projects.
Kyoka is pictured with her classmate, Prim (left) at the VERSO Swim Meet held in June 2022. Kyoka won 2 gold in the 50m and 100m butterfly and 2 silver in 50m and 100m freestyle .
Your favorite spot at VERSO?
My favorite area is the 3rd floor of HUB, especially the band room, because that's where I go every Friday afternoon to practice, and it's a place where I can relax and learn more about my passion for music.
Kyoka and her friends at the band room, her favorite space at VERSO.
Which project are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the recent Entertainment Arts project, because this is where I have made significant personal development. Procrastination is my biggest weakness. Because this project focused on collaboration, I had to take initiative, lead group activities, and encourage others throughout the project. It has always made me proud and happy to improve in something I struggled with for years because it taught me a lot, including how to prioritize.
"I am most proud of the recent Entertainment Arts project, because this is where I have made significant personal development", says Kyoka.
You call yourself a changemaker. What does that mean?
To me, being a changemaker means standing up and using our voice and platform to advocate for positive social change while also being a spokesperson. I truly believe that you do not have to make a big impact and change to call yourself a changemaker because no matter how big or small the impact you make, you are still a changemaker because you step out of your comfort zone to speak up, advocate, and follow your passion, and that is already a change you are making.
You recently published a book. Tell us about it.
Ever since I was about 10 years old, I always wanted to publish a book, and that was one of my biggest goals in life. Growing up, I loved going to bookstores and spending hours there, and I also had many wonderful opportunities to attend book events and meet many bestselling authors. Each of their stories was unique, which may be one reason why 10-year-old Kyoka wanted to publish a book!
I have always doubted my writing and thought it was never good enough for publishing a book, but when I turned 16, I promised myself that I would write a book that my younger self would appreciate and that I would see as an inspiration and encouragement to teenagers.
BE THE CHANGE; is the story of my journey as a young changemaker and how I grapple with society, make my way through a hectic and uncertain world, and find my passion, identity, and role in it. I have always wanted to read a book that would serve as a guide through turbulent times, and since I have not found one, I decided to write this book to help others who may still be searching at the age of 12. I hope this book represents youth, advocates for change, and has a positive social impact on readers.
This book project has been by far the biggest and longest project I've worked on. The whole process took about 10 months, but from writing, working with the I-Fah Paradise publishing team, editing, countless discussions, and trial and error, I would say it took 17 years of my life to truly write BE THE CHANGE;!
It was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve gained throughout the last year,
BE THE CHANGE; is Kyoka's first published book which narrates the story of her journey as a young changemaker and how she grappled with society and made her way through a hectic and uncertain world to find her passion and identity.
What is your personal goal?
A big personal goal is to relearn how to love and take better care of myself after being constantly busy and not having enough time for myself last year. When I started working on my self-love, I learned how to set boundaries, accept myself when I am down, and celebrate every moment in life.
What is your favorite book to read?
I enjoy reading books about activism, politics, gender studies, social issues, and self-help. Some books I have enjoyed reading are "In Order to Live" by Yeonmi Park and "Half the Sky" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Who inspires you?
I am always inspired by the people around me, especially changemakers and activists, and one of them is Koendanai (they/them). They always inspire me to be my true self and advocate for things like mental health, diversity, and inclusion. Their passion for change has created a blueprint for many young changemakers and activists, including myself, and their actions and commitment to change have also taught me how to be a changemaker and advocate for what I truly believe in. The way Koendanai has created a safe space and platform has allowed many young people, including myself, to learn how to be our true selves.
"VERSO has allowed me to develop new skills and learn something new every day, and most importantly, opened up new opportunities for me"
- KYOKA SHODLADD
If you had one superpower, what would it be?
Because I strongly believe in the importance of having a safe space and being able to express yourself, I would love to have the ability to heal people and make them feel safe because living in today's hectic, uncertain, and judgmental culture can be difficult on our mental health.
If you could make one rule that everyone in the world had to follow, what would it be?
If I had to make one rule that everyone would have to follow, it would be one that has to do with diversity and inclusion, because I truly believe that everyone who lives in this world should have the opportunity to feel safe and free to express themselves as they are without being condemned or restricted by societal expectations, norms, guidelines, or laws.
What does “inspiring everyone to be future ready” mean to you?
It means empowering and encouraging people through our actions to raise our voices and stand up for the things we believe in and make a difference, no matter how big or small the impact. I believe that storytelling, especially sharing our stories, is one of the best ways to inspire others, because we all have different backgrounds, passions, ideologies, goals, etc., and there will always be someone out there who finds our stories encouraging, inspiring, or heartening, which gives them the opportunity to see the world outside of their box and comfort zone.
Where do you see yourself beyond VERSO?
I aspire to write and publish more books, focus on activism, specifically education, mental health, and LGBTQIA+ matters, speak at different schools, host events, and offer workshops in the near future. As a junior, I’m preparing myself for university and a gap year. I'm planning to apply to some universities in the US and Osaka University in Japan to study international relations/ human sciences or women, gender and sexuality studies. I’m also planning for a gap year to give myself more opportunities and time.
For more information about BE THE CHANGE; please visit https://sites.google.com/view/bethechangethailand/home
Tags: Student Spotlight