Before I studied abroad in college, I had never considered graduating a semester early, changing my major, or moving to a new city. However, during the fall semester of 2016, I took a class called Integrating Reading and Writing for Adolescents that New York University (NYU) Steinhardt required for its English education students.
At that point, I was an English education major, a first-semester junior at NYU and had just come back to New York from a semester abroad in Ghana. All of those ideas changed when my professor for that class said to me, “It seems like there’s a weight on your shoulders,” as I packed my bag up after our group meeting. I had no response as her words made that weight a reality for me in a split-second. I excused myself and ran to the bathroom, shut a stall door, and cried for the next ten minutes.
My approach to my career and my life changed after that experience. I became more aware of toxic aspects of my life and worked to either curb or eliminate them by reflecting about the things that brought me happiness. I began to reconsider my trajectory and worked with professors, my academic adviser, and my family to determine the path best suited for me. I eventually realized my calling may have never been to teach, but instead, to improve the lives of those less-fortunate than me through other avenues of impact.
A year and a half has passed, and I continue to grow my understanding of how I can frame a career around social impact through my current internships with the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) in Nashville and with another nonprofit, Hands4Others.
While at SCORE, I have been fortunate to work on a memo on racial integration. My research revealed that attempts to racially integrate schools have yet to dispel the notion of “separate and equal” 60-plus years later. One of the major implications of racial separation is that many students may never get the chance to interact and learn with students of other backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. This is significant because our schools should reflect the demographic makeup of our society to properly prepare students for postsecondary life. As I come to understand which societal issues I find most urgent, I hope the work I do within or outside of education drives policies and movements that seek to bridge the divisions between all people, regardless of where they come from.
Another avenue through which I have explored my path of social impact is Hands4Others (H4O), a nonprofit organization based in California that seeks to cultivate young leaders through its Global Internship Program and create movements around the world’s most prominent causes. While at H4O, I have had the opportunity to raise funds and create awareness for Syrian refugees who are seeking asylum in Europe, write and publish opinion pieces using the website, and am now transitioning into a new role as a mentor with H4O. Through these roles, I have learned to use my voice to advocate for others and create content that can drive conversation. Furthermore, I have gained a deeper understanding of the struggles that so many kind, innocent, and helpless people face beyond America’s borders. I am hopeful that these peoples’ stories will stay in my heart, but also that they guide my career goals and future aspirations.
As my time at SCORE and H4O continues, I am aware, as each day passes that I am at a crossroads. This juncture is incredibly significant as the decisions I make from here will impact my trajectory. Furthermore, these decisions will be indicative of how I perceive my path of social impact. At the moment, I find myself torn between pursuing a career centered on improving educational issues in the United States or if I will work to improve the lives of my brothers and sisters across the world in a humanitarian capacity. Only time will tell.