Growing up in a decidedly middle-class community in New York, it came as quite a shock to me when I first realized that my parents were struggling to pay our rent, put clothes on the backs of my younger sister and I, and even put food on the table. Thanks to the help of other family and some great organizations, we were able to narrowly get by during some very lean times. I will never forget going to sleep hungry, wearing sneakers with holes in the toes to school, and not having many things that other kids in my neighborhood had. Those are the hardships that became the building blocks for the person I have become today. Through all the tough times, my parents always stressed the importance of believing in myself, in my family and in the goodness of others.

In times like these, when violence, racism, homophobia, gender bias, social and economic inequality, and hatred have sadly become commonplace in our society, this is the time that all of us can do our part to change the dangerous direction we seem to be headed in. I am pledging the next four years to service in an attempt to do my part. If I can help anyone who feels that their voice is not being heard, their basic human rights are being ignored, or that they don't have a place in this country, then perhaps I can, in even a small way, repay all the good that was done for me when I needed it most.