What if it’s too hard?
I’m gonna push through!
What if it’s too tough?
I’m gonna push through!
These words by Jasmyn Wright have reverberated through her North Philly classroom and across the globe.
Wright, a 28-year-old elementary school teacher at Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School, had no idea that the daily mantra she and her 27 third graders recited would take social media by storm.
She posted a video of the chant to her Facebook page last year, and it gained more than 10,000 views within minutes and more than 3 million within days. The week it went viral she made a guest appearance on Today, and did interviews with Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. She was featured on BET and Essence. Celebrities like actress Tracee Ellis Ross were sharing the video.
It had such an impact that Gap tapped her to reenact the video for its “Back to School” ad campaign.
“The GapKids ‘Forward with’ campaign is a celebration of progress. It’s about extending the idea of “dressing” beyond clothing to the traits and behaviors that will lead to kids’ success. We were looking for individuals who have their own unique way of dressing kids. Ones who prepare kids for every day, and for life. We loved the empowerment Jasmyn instills in her students, and how she teaches them the most valuable lesson of all – self-worth,” Gap said in a statement as to why Wright and her students were selected.
The 30-second commercial shows Wright walking through her classroom aisle as the third-grade students chant “Push through!”, moving their hands in a pushing motion.
The camera focuses on Ny’Asia Slater, 9, as she delivers each word with focus and determination before saying, “We push through anything we put our minds to!”
“Everything I taught my kids, it was because of something I was going through as well,” said Wright.
The Philly educator, who was raised in Pennsauken, graduated from Spelman College in Georgia and then received her master’s in education from Christian Brothers University in Tennessee. She grew up doing spoken word and began to incorporate it in the classroom.
Early in her teaching career in Memphis, Wright had students look in the mirror and say, “I love you. I believe in you. You’re going to have a great day.”
“I wanted to foster a sense of love for yourself, confidence, and strong sense of community,” she said.
She arrived at Mastery in 2016. “We had 27 kids from 27 different backgrounds with 27 different needs and each kid probably has about five needs,” said Wright.
Wright said she prayed, trying to figure out what to do to reach her students. One October morning she woke up exhausted but kept telling herself to push through.
“Push through, and all of the words literally poured into my head, and I put it in my phone,” she said.
When she got into the classroom, she workshopped the mantra with her kids for an hour.
“I would always teach my kids how to be resilient,” she said. “Instead of [saying] resilient, I substituted it for the words push through.”
The questions in the mantra were prompted by what she taught or heard in her classroom.
What if you’re too young?
She taught her kids about the now-20-year-old Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and 12-year-old Marley Dias to show them they were “not too young to make a difference.”
What if you’re too black?
She remembered one of her students looking through a book of sports cars.
“It’s a cool car!” he yelled, “But black people don’t drive these kinds of cars. … We don’t have that kind of money.”
“He’s 8 years old,” said Wright. “His mom didn’t tell him that, his dad didn’t. He developed it on his own, probably from watching TV or looking around his neighborhood and letting that limit him.”
On a November morning, it was announced that Donald Trump would become the president. One student in particular was crying and said, “I heard him on TV and he doesn’t like Muslims.”
Wright made the class do the chant, a reminder to push through regardless of the obstacles that present themselves. One student suggested it be recorded. Wright uploaded it to Facebook and Instagram and it went viral.
“I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t want the world to see my Facebook page.”
But it did.
Wright got responses from educators and parents in Bangladesh, Jordan, Egypt, Germany, Ecuador, Switzerland, Guinea, and Guyana. Sometimes they got personal and shared moments that they had to push through. The impact the video had on people and the responsibility that came with it began to dawn on her.
“I was nervous because … I’m just Jasmyn, am I ready?” she asked.
That’s when she had to remember the very chant she and her students recite day in and day out. She could do anything she put her mind to.
When she went to class the next day, she recalled, her students knew the video was an internet sensation and were excited.
“They felt just as important as all the people they [were learning] about,” she said.
Jerrica Rogers said that since Wright started the chant, she has noticed a change in her daughter Ny’Asia.
“It boosted her confidence and broke her out of her shy shell,” she said.
Seeing her daughter take the lead in the commercial was huge. Especially, she said, when young Muslim Americans have a lot of misconceptions to combat.
It made her happy that the world got “to see how bright, outspoken, free-spirited, and outgoing [Ny’Asia] is.” said Rogers. “It shows that Muslims are just like everyone.”
The school’s principal, Tina Caruso, said she was watching a show on Hulu recently when the commercial came on and caught her off guard.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” said Caruso. “To see our little babies on there saying these amazing things. Seeing them do it everyday is wonderful, but seeing the message that they’re putting out there to other black and brown kids and letting them know they can be that too was really touching.”
Wright is turning “Push Through” into a nonprofit she is setting up to show it’s not just a chant but a movement. She’s working on a book that will share her methods and her story. Educators and parents across the globe send her videos of their kids reciting the mantra.
Wright said she tells her students that “there’s a diamond that God placed inside of you, and it’s your gift that you have to offer the world.” Her goal, she said, is to teach them how to operate within that gift.