All of you know that I have decided to take a bridge year in lieu of my first year of college and that I will be in Hyderabad, India where I will be working for a social impact organization known as Teach for India.
However, one aspect of my bridge year that you may be wondering about is “the why.” You may be asking yourself, “how did this young woman get to a point in her life where she decided to defer a year of college at Tufts University to participate in this international bridge year program?” Hopefully, I’ll be able to assuage all the curiosity.
Well, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jaime. I have lived in Baltimore, Maryland for most of my life, and I was privileged enough to go to a well-known private school in the Baltimore area, McDonogh School for 10 years. This PreK-12, college preparatory school has been integral in shaping who I am. It has afforded me various opportunities that I would have otherwise not been able to have.
However, this school is a predominantly white institution (PWI). As a Black woman, I began to see and, eventually, understand social stratification. I began to realize diversity, more so the lack there-of, when I was in middle school. I remember that in most of my classes, I realized that I usually made up one or one of the two people of color (POC). Then, in high school, I started to notice the underrepresentation of faculty of color, the lack of resources and support systems for students of color, and my intense passion for social justice and equity. In this predominantly white space, I quickly began to understand the necessity to take on a role that would aim to increase the awareness of diversity and POC’s issues.
I became involved in Sankofa, a club that aimed to provide a space where Black students could talk about what they faced in the private school world and our nation, and all white students and teachers could come to listen and engage. I was also a co-president of Diversity for McDonogh (D4M) and a member of the Rollins-Luetkemeyer Leader program, which was a position that I was voted into by my peers and faculty.
Now, the question a reader might have is “okay, now how did that influence you to take an international bridge year?” The answer is that after all the diversity and equity work, I was emotionally burnt out and truly disillusioned with my ability to create change. I was constantly focused on the negatives of American social structures. I felt that I was never doing enough to change the minds of others or impact enough white people. I really felt like I needed bigger perspective, and that’s when I felt the potential impact Hyderabad could have on me. I believe that a worldly perspective will allow me to expand my definition of change as well as expose me to more intangible change.
Another layer of my decision to take a bridge year was rooted in my leadership. At my class graduation, I received the Leadership Award. I was defined by my leadership in my community. However, as I look back on my legacy, I feel disappointed in myself. I didn’t leave a sustainable structure for my fellow leaders to build off; instead I left an empty mold of myself. I was the main shot caller and person of action; I realize now that I needed to take a collectivist approach which would have been much more conducive to a sustainable structure. When I decided to take this bridge year, I realized that I needed time to adjust and expand upon what it means to be a leader as well as improve my leadership skills.
And, finally, the last influence on my bridge year decision comes down to my first, independent decision. I had always been the child who followed the straight path to college. My goals were always aligned with what may look good to a college and I never did anything that was too risky in fear of jeopardizing my clean record. A bridge year strayed away from that model. No one encouraged me to do it or told me I should do it. I wanted my decision to take a bridge year to be my own, and it is my own. I believe that because it is my own that it is also my first step to understanding myself on a deeper, more intimate level.
I realize that all of these “whys” are rooted in my own, selfish reasons. However, I’d like to leave you with a quote, “There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first,” (Jim Morrison).
Still I Rise