I entered into my senior year of high school burned out and fed up. I was sick of being forced to take classes that were neither useful nor interesting. I kept asking myself, “When in my life am I ever going to need the quadratic formula?” I was fed up with the extreme emphasis on standardized testing. Anyone can memorize dates and math formulas, but not everyone can think creatively and critically. Standardized testing measures little to nothing of what I or a lot of other students are good at. I refused to take the AP government, AP psychology test, and the SAT on principal. I love learning, but on my own terms. In hindsight, I took a lot of what was offered to me for granted. However, I knew that there had to be more. I could not just hop on the track that is so hard to get off once you are on; high school, college, and then maybe, just maybe, get a job with a degree and $100,000 worth of student loans earned. At the time it seemed like a death sentence. I applied to Global Citizen Year on a whim, and four weeks later I got the phone call that has changed my life.
I am currently sitting in an internet cafe in the Chimborazo providence of Ecuador, in the middle of my bridge year. Chimborazo is the most economically challenged providence in Ecuador with the majority of the people living on less than $2.00 a day. Reading about a developing country and living with a family in the poorest region of one are two very different things. I did not really understand what poverty was until I got here. In my home we have no refrigerator, no oven, and we wash our clothes by hand. Our modest home does not have much furniture. We do not have a TV or a computer, and my diet consists mainly of bread and rice. That is not to say my family is poor. I feel strongly that poverty and poor are two very different words with two very different meanings. Though my family lives in poverty, the culture is very rich. Family is more important than material things and status. I am constantly humbled by the way they not only let a complete stranger into their home, but the stranger is me, a gringa (the Spanish word for westerner).
Although in reality it has only been since May that I have been out of high school, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was attending prom. The opportunities and privileges that I am provided with just because of the country I was born in continue to amaze me. There is a quote from a book I recently read by Jacqueline Novogratz that has been the driving factor to many decisions that I make. “With great privilege comes great responsibility”. I was born with privilege; and I have a responsibility that I’m holding myself accountable to.
I’m currently enrolled in the school of life, a school where you do not get a shiny piece of paper saying you have earned enough credit to graduate, and does not end until I die. I would also like to be enrolled in college. I am now committed to going to college for the right reasons. I am committed to gaining a set of skills to be an affective agent of change in the world. I am committed because I recognize what a huge privilege it is to be able to go to college. I am committed for the children selling fruit on the streets of Ecuador to make only a few cents a day. The time I have spent in Ecuador has opened up a part of me that I’ve always had, but over time got warped, squashed, and buried. I am now committed because I have a purpose to work towards.