My name is Joshua L. Hamilton and today I have the confidence to say that the sky is the limit for me. My life has been full of circumstances that may have put me at a disadvantage, but never disabled my will to succeed. Since I was three years old, I was raised by my mother’s first cousin and her husband because my mother was unfit to take care of me. Even though my new home

created a more stable environment with dependable parents I still questioned their love for me and wondered about my own identity. My circumstances caused me to spend most of my juvenile years living reckless and close minded. I was living my life hanging upside down leaving me blind to what the world had to offer, let alone believing that I would have something to offer to the world. I never knew what it felt like to be a leader; I was too easily distracted and easily influenced by people who had just as little direction as me. So I stayed stuck in a ditch full of mischief, which sadly but surely became my comfort zone. Now I know that stepping outside my comfort zone and facing my challenges gives me the opportunity to learn from my failures. This is a valuable lesson that I would have never learned without a program called Summer Search. My sophomore year in high school, despite a lack of focus and an extremely low GPA, one teacher saw something special in me and nominated me for Summer Search. This is where change began.

Summer Search is a leadership development program for resilient low income high school students. Summer Search literally turned my life right side up. The program taught me to accept myself for who I am, and gave me the self-assurance needed to have a positive impact on others. Suddenly, I have found myself at a place where I have the confidence to give what I was once searching for.

Now in a new chapter of my life, my past placed behind me but never forgotten, I am moving forward into adulthood, and taking advantage of what the world has to offer. Straight out of high school, off to college? Not just yet: off to Africa, a place so far away from home and filled with people who look like me but live oh so differently.  As a Global Citizen Year Fellow here in Senegal, I am in a place of self discovery on so many different levels, exploring a whole new world, taking on new challenges and learning how to use my own unique skills to contribute to making a difference. I am ecstatic just thinking of all the possibilities, of making even the smallest difference in another person’s life.

So as I march towards my destiny it is with great honor and humility, to have been granted such a grand opportunity, first with Summer Search, now with Global Citizen Year. I will follow my heart instead of making moves based on what is right in front of me. I’ll disregard the obvious adversity and take a few falls on my way to greatness because my sight is blindfolded by my faith. And I’ll continue to walk in it as I am forever buoyed by perseverance, which furnishes me with the confidence to say that my generation has what it takes to change nations. Yes, a bold statement made by young man bold to his purpose. But this is only the beginning.  Halfway through my Global Citizen Year, I’m finding my footing, and now, finally, my voice.