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Student Activist Tiana Day On Designing For Change, And Empowering The Next Generation Of Change-Makers

For Tiana Day, the summer of 2020 will forever be remembered as the time that changed her life.


For Tiana Day, the summer of 2020 will forever be remembered as the time that changed her life.

Back then, the San Ramon native had just graduated from high school and was committed to starting college in Southern California until the pandemic put her plans on pause. Then one night while scrolling through her social media, a post she saw sparked something in the 17-year-old to take charge.

“My whole plan changed because of this one moment that I decided to just make stuff happen,” Tiana tells Canva.

A social media post from Mimi Zoila, 19, from Marin County in California, called out for a leader to steer a peaceful Black Lives Matter march across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

“I'd never led a protest or spoke in front of big crowds before, but I felt inclined to get involved in the movement,” Tiana said.

Tiana and Mimi, who’d never met in person until the morning of the protest, got to work immediately to plan the public event. Eager to get the word out, Tiana turned to Canva -- a design tool she’d used previously for school projects -- to create a flyer promoting the protest and shared it across social media.

The teens hoped a few hundred people would join them in the rally. Within 24 hours, Tiana and her co-founder, Mimi, marched across the Golden Gate Bridge with more than 50,000 people.

“I put [the poster] on my social media and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning and there were thousands of people waiting to march in solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement.”.

“That impulsive moment ended up becoming something that has completely taken over my life,” she said.

Empowering Youth To Make Change

Tiana says the momentum of the protest “lit a fire” within her and sparked her passion for activism.

She became empowered to be a voice for the younger generation and her community.

“I was like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now,” she recalls.

Today, Tiana, 18, is the founder of non-profit organization, Youth Advocates For Change, which champions youth-led causes and supports students to take action on intersectional social justice issues.

“I was seeing that thousands of people were impacted by actions that I had created.”

“And I knew that if other young people had someone to push them, to inspire them, and encourage them to just speak their opinion, maybe they can also make a bigger impact,” Tiana said.

As a biracial student growing up in her suburban area, Tiana admits she felt singled out at school and was subject to bullying and discrimination, experiences that her non-profit community closely relates to.

“I wanted to create an organization that would be a safe space, because I know that that’s something that I needed when I was younger and would have gotten me voicing my opinion earlier.”

Tiana’s main mission is to use her platform to encourage students to speak up on social justice issues.

“This generation has a lot of passion. And I feel like it’s not being heard when we talk about things like racial equity, education rights, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, and a list of other things.”

“And now more than ever, it’s important that we get up and we get loud and we make sure that our voices are heard,” she said.

Creating Change Through Visual Design

With 150 chapter members located across the United States, Canva has become an essential tool in the non-profit’s daily operations, providing a collaborative platform for the team to create impactful and memorable branded material from posters, flyers, social media graphics, and presentations.

“We’re able to collaborate with our out-of-state chapters. So students from all over the country can be working on one design, or one project, or slideshow presentation, and we can all be on the same page,” Tiana said.

The visual design tool also supports Tiana’s team in engaging students to join in their mission.

“We can easily recruit by making flyers that we can post on social media. With Canva, I can easily impact the next generation of change-makers,” she said.

The non-profit founder also notes Canva has allowed the team to create a strong visual brand that connects with students and supports key messaging, which has been crucial to promote their work.

“People always tell us that our designs are really thought-out and informational, which is funny because we literally just take templates right off Canva and put our own words into it.”

“So we take the compliment, but honestly I owe it to Canva!” Tiana laughs.

Planning The Next Chapter

Today, Tiana has started college while continuing to focus on her organization and connecting with her growing community. The student founder admits she’s landed exactly where she needs to be.

“My proudest moment was getting an email from a girl in Ohio. She had seen me in an interview and was like, I don’t know how, but I want to get involved in your organization.” So Tiana created a chapter in Ohio.

“I’ve stepped into my own shoes and I really know who I am now because I’ve stuck with my gut.”

Her main message for future generations? “Empowered people empower people. Being the first person to take initiation can impact millions of people but you won’t know until you take the leap of faith and just do it.”

“At the end of the day this is not a moment, this is a movement. And my goal is to get more students involved in Youth Advocates For Change, where there’s a space for everyone, whatever your passion is.”

Tiana Day is one of three Canva community members appearing in the company’s ‘With Canva, you can’ campaign.