My Convergence With GCY

Johannes Raatz - Senegal


September 26, 2010

Global Citizen Year is a momentous step in my education and personal growth, but my story begins earlier. Specifically, there were three indelible experiences which played a large role in shaping my passion for the “foreign”. Specifically, these set my course away from the western paradigm of conspicuous consumption and toward the “real world”. By the “real world”, I mean the reality for the vast majority of our 6.7 billion humans.

In 2006, I flew down to the Biloxi / Gulfport area with my church to help in the rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, I traveled with my parents and a family friend to Uganda to participate in youth and gender equality conferences, meet with HIV/AIDS widows and orphans, and attempt to grasp the characteristics of the local education system. In 2008, I accompanied my church missions group again; this time to the Dominican Republic, including to visit one of the last remaining leper colonies in the world.

All taken either during or immediately before my high school semester finals, these experiences did not help my GPA or traditional schooling. They were, however, undoubtedly the most valuable components of my education. They shaped my values and interests; they redefined what in life is meaningful.

As a consequence, I am pursuing a life dedicated to active, purposeful work. Having personally witnessed poverty, I must commit my opportunities and resources to attempt to make positive change.

When I found Global Citizen Year, I immediately saw the program focus directly in line with both my academic and career interests. Human rights, economic development in the third world, and social enterprise are my strongest fields of curiosity; exactly the complex issues that Global Citizen Year addresses in training high school graduates for the twenty-first century.

Founder of GCY, Abby Falik, poignantly phrased a common paradox of the United States. To paraphrase, “I attempted to join the Peace Corps right out of high school. They wouldn’t take me without a college education. We trust eighteen year olds with guns. Why can’t we trust eighteen year olds to use their hands, heads, and hearts to make positive civic change?”

My story has converged with Global Citizen Year.  My story may later diverge from GCY.  I will, however, be forever impacted by this union.

Johannes Raatz