I'm very excited to announce that I have been named a winner of the 2016 ScholarTrips essay contest for my essay, "The Dive". I plan to donate 60% of the scholarship money to three causes that are in need of my support: the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and literacy projects at local underfunded schools through DonorsChoose, and I'm very thankful to ScholarTrips for choosing me.
Here is a copy of the essay, soon to be published on their site! Anyone who knows me at all won't be surprised at the Alice in Wonderland theme.
I’m standing on the edge of the cliff, looking at the water below. It is clearer than I expected. I feel like I can see all the way to the bottom. How did I end up here? I’m much more of a reader than a jumper. I’m much more likely to experience a cliff like this on the pages of a book.
And yet here I am, on the cliff. I’ve come to the Dominican Republic with a group of students. We have been volunteering, working hard in the hot weather to fit in and help out. There have been wonderful moments, times where my Spanish improved or I was able to make a genuine connection with someone I’m visiting. I’ve been able to live in a different way of life, to get to know other students from all over the country who want to make a difference. But I wonder if this trip has really been just for me, not the community I’m supposed to be serving. After all, there are plenty of people I could serve at home. I think that I came here for me. And I’m standing on a cliff, wondering, “Is that okay?”
I’m afraid to dive, just as I was afraid to come on this trip. I can see my new friends’ legs in the clear water below me, churning thin white bubbles. They’ve done it; why should I be afraid? But it’s not the same as doing it myself. And then I realize that it’s okay not to take all my lessons from books. And it’s okay to be afraid. And it’s okay to do it, for myself.
I jump. The fall is only seconds, but it lasts a long time. I feel like Alice, falling down the rabbit-hole, when time slows down and all sorts of thoughts spin through her head. Will the girl I met yesterday remember me when I go home? Will I remember her? Why does she live here and I don’t? How will this little town change over the years? And then I hit the water and I was right; it’s clear.
What inspires me to travel are these edge-of-the-cliff moments that wouldn’t happen in the comfort of home. By going somewhere totally outside my normal life, I was able to question what I know in ways I never had before. I have found that I don’t look at anything the same now – I’m more eager to see the other side, a different perspective, another point of view. I’m less likely to assume what I already thought was true, and more likely to see for myself by taking the dive.
I'm a high school senior who loves to read, write, read about writing, and write about reading. My first novel, Heartshire High, is out now!