by Sophie Lindley
Junior, Summit High School
Spring Hill, Tennessee
I have had the opportunity through my father’s job to travel extensively to the other side of the planet, including Vietnam and the Philippines. My father works for a multinational company with offices overseas and a part of their corporate mission is to provide financial and social relief to those impoverished. As a family, we visited several orphanages to provide the emotional and monetary support that those children so desperately needed.
My father’s involvement in the welfare of so many Filipinos and what I have learned about poverty, lack of opportunity, and hopelessness has shaped my life and led me to start a club called the Diversity Leadership Project. I could no longer be paralyzed with inactivity, because despite the fact that the orphanages we visited had the most wellkept and tidy dirt floors I will probably ever see, they were still dirt floors.
I have seen the terrifying face of social inequality up front halfway around the world and from my position of predominantly upper class Franklin, Tennessee, surrounded by country music stars and SUVs, the need to examine global issues at a local level meant sharing a vision with my friends and peers about a more verdant and equitable world where empathetic listening and respectful conversation leads to a more meaningful existence and a more focused life mission.
At first, my friends were skeptical and could not see beyond the bubble that we live in. Do you realize how difficult it really is to get high school kids to sit in different places in the cafeteria? It may seem easy to some, but getting students to sit, talk to, and listen to unfamiliar students of different nationalities and with no common interests is an extremely arduous task. Reaching out to people I’ve never had to contact before with a strong sense of vulnerability and asking for their friendship was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, regardless of how effortless it may seem.
It is these simple yet strenuous acts that are able to bring what my eyes have witnessed globally to a more local level in Williamson County. My experiences abroad and close contact with the unbelievable sense of community in places where home may not even constitute a house have brought about a desire within me to help the world become a more accepting and generous place where all people can thrive. It is those tightknit communities around the world, where the people have nothing but one another to call home, that push me to want more for my own community and to help the diversity that we experience make us closer together instead of driving a wedge between us.
Through this club that I believe could change the course of society, I want to work with people close to me, and those that are not, to come together in trying times to accept that we are not all the same, yet we are all equal. As you can see, this is not a typical ‘how I spent my summer abroad’ essay. Instead, it is showing how I came to be who I am, find my voice, and serve a greater purpose in this world that will hopefully reach way beyond my comprehension.
I have seen poverty. I have seen struggle. I have seen the inequality of mankind. But above it all, I have seen the incomprehensible resilience of people to continue on and build a sense of community no matter what their situation may be. Through the Diversity Leadership Project, my only goal is to bring the people in my society together and to learn to embrace the differences so that we can start to build a better tomorrow for the people of today.