30 Under 30: Jordyn Lexton, Founder and Executive Director of Drive Change

Photo by Nicolas Maloof

Last week marked the release of our annual 30 Under 30 issue, and because each of these individuals is so interesting, we thought we’d further highlight them by running some brief interviews with them.

Name: Jordyn Lexton
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Work, Bushwick; Live, Prospect Heights
Occupation: Founder/Executive Director, Drive Change

Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
Jared Spafford, Culinary Arts Director Drive Change

Who are your role models in your industry?
Jessamyn Rodriguez, Hot Bread Kitchen; Glenn Martin, JustLeadership USA. Honestly, there are SO SO many people who have been role models and mentors. These two represent leaders in the food social enterprise and criminal justice reform space that I think about and look up to every day.

What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you loved to do?
For three years I taught English at the High School on Rikers Island. I witnessed an abusive system that did not do much to help young people rehabilitate. One of the only areas in the jail where my students were happy and engaged was in the Culinary Arts class. I realized that if I could start a food business for young people coming home from jail and prison we could do three powerful things: provide quality employment to youth that are often denied work experience; teach transferable skills that could broaden future opportunities for young people to develop careers not just jobs; and use the power of a shared meal to connect with community and raise awareness about injustice inside of the criminal justice system. I needed to try to make this happen; I listened to my gut, and dove into building Drive Change from the ground up.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
1. Feel your purpose (building a company is hard work and if you cannot feel the “why” every single day, it will not happen)

2. Invest in relationships; nothing can be done to its full potential without external support. The best kind of working relationship is cross-beneficial so constantly be thinking about people/orgs/companies that are working in/around your industry who can benefit from working with you and who you can benefit from.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
We got to work hard to build access to opportunity for all young people. Poverty stands in the way of that; no matter what place someone is born. I think Brooklyn is an inherently creative and gritty (in the good way) place that lends itself to entrepreneurial energy.

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
I just got started (Drive Change is under two years old), so this fight burns bright and deep. There are challenges every day; but I have not woken up feeling immobile or demoralized since making the decision to leave teaching full time to pursue Drive Change. Each day is an opportunity to grow the movement and empower another person to join us in redefining justice.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
Launching the Snowday food truck with our inaugural group of young people coming home from the system and, within just six months of operation, winning the Vendy Award for Rookie of the Year.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I cannot answer this without answering where I see Drive Change in 10 years; I see the food truck industry and social justice being completely intertwined. I see a society where people cannot think of food trucks without thinking about social justice. That synergy is the 10 year goal. This is a movement… we’re trucking toward a brighter tomorrow.

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