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“I am from Richmond.” Oftentimes people would cringe when they hear this from me. As a young girl I constantly wondered why everyone seemed so afraid of my city. Eventually, I was slapped with the reality that I come from a community infamous for its high crime rates and violence. But despite its unfortunate reputation, Richmond has endowed me with countless opportunities, helping me realize my dreams of providing service to the mentally unstable.
Sophomore year was a peak period of uncertainty when it came to knowing my own hobbies and passions. I was a part of both a leadership class and Interact club, but I had no deeper purpose. In the midst of this phase of aimless wandering, I came across the Ivy League Connection. I learned that the ILC was a summer scholarship program exclusively designed for qualified Richmond students who seek to explore Ivy League schools on the east coast. I instantly wanted in. After the long series of steps in the ILC’s highly intensive application process, I found myself on a plane, heading to Brown University for three weeks at absolutely no cost. There I took a rigorous Women and Leadership course in which I studied and analyzed many aspects of gender roles in society. The course was an eye-opener in that I acquired an incredible mindset that I have the power to not only change myself, but also my community. Because of the ILC, I was given the unique opportunity to expose myself to an elite Ivy League school, experience total independence as a college student, and develop a heartfelt passion for community outreach—all at the age of fifteen.
At that point, I was unstoppable. I upheld my sense of drive for the community in my leadership class and Interact club, contributing abundantly to both organizations. The town’s Rotary club recognized this and chose to sponsor me as a representative in the annual Camp Royal, in which 150 “Interactors” from all across Northern California spend an entire week together to gain a more profound perspective on community service. One of the most unforgettable moments occurred at the main obstacle of the ropes course. The objective was to climb over a 15-foot flat-surfaced wall—a seemingly impossible task. However it was made possible when my teammates lifted each other to the top one by one. After the last person had climbed over, I grasped the greater meaning to this obstacle: as long as a community acts as one body, trials and tribulations become nothing but mere words. It was an experience that truly blew my expectations; Camp Royal had impacted me in such an overwhelming, insurmountable way, and I was hungry for more.
There are countless factors about Richmond that bring disgrace to its people, but I see much more to it than simply a city full of lawlessness. I overflow with appreciation whenever I think of how far I have gone because of the hope that this city had cultivated within me. The qualities that I had gained through these experiences make me a potential counselor to the mentally ill in my community. I want to be the one to remind them that there are brighter days ahead and to open their eyes to the beauty of the world just as the Richmond community had opened mine.
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