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Ithaca, New York is a long way away from Mississippi with its innate Southern values, sweltering summers, and a culture with an aversion to diversity and change. I’ve learned from my upbringing in a rural Southern town, though, that education and compassion have monumental impacts on people. And I am confident that the Industrial and Labor Relations School is perfect for my interests because of its broad scope of study and commitment to leadership development. I don’t know what career I hope to pursue, but I know I will utilize my voice to support my community and nation. I hope to pursue a career where I can impact the lives of young girls like me, whose voices are otherwise stifled.
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The rural Southern town where I was raised was, and is, riddled with poverty. My father and brothers all work rigorous manual labor jobs, where they return home tired, aching, and caked in grime. My father is forced to pile on work hours to his already overflowing schedule to pay for my school expenses each year. Each book fee and notebook bought are signs of support that remain otherwise unspoken. As I strive to be the first student in my family to attend college, I struggle to communicate the challenges I face. My family is unable to support me in many ways, but they scrape together spare change and trust me to make the best decisions, believing in my vision for a successful future.
I struggled to find my voice as a child, both literally and figuratively, because a speech impediment shamed me into silence. I remained this way until I enrolled in my first speech class. My teacher urged students to engage in thought-provoking debates, speak up against social influences, and discover personal values.
For the first time in my life, I was compelled to speak for myself.
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Since then, I have developed a passion for utilizing my voice in a variety of ways: political activism for global education rights, correspondence for nonprofits supporting women veterans, and campaigning to senators on behalf of my high school’s charitable foundation. I challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and embrace the unpredictable nature of advocacy and leadership.
When I started researching colleges, my greatest priority was finding an inspiring community who boasted an assortment of perspectives provoking inquiry and individuality. I realized ILR was a perfect fit when I read from the Student Spotlights segments featuring students including Alex Bores, Simon Boehme, and Lily Burns. Alex’s discussion on rediscovering debate as a hobby, Simon’s meaningful research experience, and Lily’s perspective on independent study all resonated with me as opportunities I valued in an education.
However, the student spotlight that stood out to me was Rachel Harmon. Having lived in Mississippi my whole life, I have witnessed the issues, such as economic and educational disparities, she discussed firsthand as well. I struggled below the poverty line and remained victim to an education system stripped bare of funding. When I shadowed Mr. Scott Colom, the district attorney of Columbus, his work revealed the truth behind the issues swelling in my home state. I began to understand and be outraged by the mass incarceration propelled by racial tension and substandard education system. When I discovered Harmon’s story, I knew I belonged at Cornell. Her affinity for addressing injustice with public policy and passion for challenging Mississippi social issues mirrored my own.
I hope for an academic community inspired by compassion and diligent in their studies, both inside and outside of the classroom. That is why ILR is the perfect school for me. I am driven to utilize my skills and wield them for a greater cause, and I believe Cornell ILR is the best place to do so.
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