Labor Day Challenge – Day 26 – SWASAP SLC Rachel
I am still at SWASAP SLC, and I am having an unbelievable time. I am literally meeting some of the best and brightest the southwest has to offer. I am following through on my Labor Day Challenge, and focusing on the leadership conference this weekend. Today we heard from Shannon Hernandez, the coordinator of the John Ben Shepperd Leadership Institute, who thrilled the students with hands-on activities and initiatives. The group traveled to Dinosaur Valley State Park to volunteer with the park department where the students gladly picked weeds, cleaned out gardens and moved materials. As an added bonus we were able to explore the park and see the dinosaur tracks!
On the way back from our community service project I rode next to Rachel, an extremely intelligent and inspirational junior in high school. She truly inspired me in so many ways. Rachel is a first generation college student, meaning no one in her family has a college degree. She grew up in the north side of Houston and is a participant with Lone Star North Harris Upward Bound. As a participant in Upward Bound, Rachel gets career and college guidance, as well as a summer program that allows her to receive tutoring specific for her post-secondary success.
Last night I challenged the students to determine their most important goal. I asked them to declare their dream, their passion, their vision. I challenged them to start declaring their goal, to say, “I am going to be a physical therapist!” or “I am going to graduate in the top 10% of my class!” To tell everyone they meet that they were going to achieve their dreams.
As we talked on the bus, Rachel looked at me very sincere and asked if she could share with me her dream. She said that people say she is crazy, that she can’t achieve her dream, and that she was nervous to tell me. After encouraging her to share, she said that the thing she thinks about all the time, the thing she was most passionate about, her main dream…was to cure cancer. I told her that was a lofty dream, and asked her how she would achieve her dream. Excitedly, she shared that she had spent time at Rice University this summer with a biomedical engineer studying DNA code and causes of cancer. She told me that she was planning to either attend Rice or the University of Philadelphia because they were some of the best places to study biomedical engineering. She detailed to me the necessary steps to be accepted into those universities and what scholarships she had applied for. She had researched the universities that would fit her personality best and her needs to be successful. She declared to me that she was going to become an oncologist so she could further promote cancer awareness and cure cancer. She was so determined, so honest, so passionate that even if I wanted to, I could have not convinced her she couldn’t cure cancer. After our conversation she had me convinced she could cure cancer, or do anything else she put her mind to.
I told these students that they are the future. They are the next doctors, lawyers, educators and professionals who will guide this earth. When I meet young people like Rachel I know we are in good hands. She gives me hope, she gives me inspiration, and I am genuinely blessed to be here this weekend. So many adults give up on their dreams and ambitions, they get swallowed up on the hassles of day-to-day life. These students are different, they have a burning desire to reach their goals and dreams. I hope to have their passion, I hope to empower others as they empower me. I am learning so much, and that is what my Labor Day Challenge is all about.