I did not grow up in a home with money. But I did grow up in a home with love. I was raised to believe that I could change the world, as long as I was nice to the people that lived in it. That said, I grew up in a homogenous community, where my first experiences with difference occurred in college. There, my first friends were two international students named Ayako Kawaguchi and Bo Ram Han. They introduced me to new things, laughed with me when I struggled to understand, and helped me see beyond my small town perspectives and consider the world at large for the first time in my 18 years of life. What I found out about myself surprised me.

It’s an interesting, vulnerable, uncomfortable experience to be introduced to your own prejudice; to realize that you are indeed the mirror image of the community that raised you, even when you ran from it. I was scared. It was strange. Yet, I thank those friends every day for what they taught me. Difference can be scary. Friendship can be scary. Learning new things is almost always scary. Vulnerable. Hard. The very essence of that difficulty, however, is what leads to change. Community service is my way to find that difficulty, seek those challenges, and work to teach others as I learn more myself. I am not perfect. I want to be better. And, I want to create that challenging space for others, the way my friends created it for me - with laughter, with understanding, and with the knowledge that sometimes we’ll fail. I lost touch with Ayako and Bo Ram long ago, but I hope one day to thank them for letting me into their world, and for a lifelong commitment to community and global engagement.