Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Pursuing Progress: Creating an Optimistic, Kind, and Compassionate Society

Name: Katherine Tyler
From: Merced, CA
Grade: 12
School: Golden Valley High School
Votes: 1

The school liaison looked unconvinced as I explained to him why my car’s
trunk was filled with hula hoops, bouncy balls, sidewalk chalk, and
bubble blowing wands. That day, with the help of a few teachers, I
planned a play date for the special ed class with GV Gives, a
community service club, during lunch. Students play games with each
other, laugh, and forget about the stress contained just a few
hundred feet away inside the campus gates.

Each student from the special ed class could play with anything they
wanted, some quietly observing and choosing, others without
hesitation readily befriending the entire club. The spectrum of
diversity between each person is broad and unique. Initially a few
GV Gives members were apprehensive, afraid of not being able to
accommodate certain disabilities, not knowing boundaries or what to
do or say. Their fears subsided, impressively adapting to each
person, knowing how to communicate with them and simply making them
smile. I am glad that I could be a proponent of dismantling the
uneasiness encompassing the topic of special needs, helping students
to understand different needs and be better prepared to respond to
them with compassion.

When the bell rang indicating the end of lunch, the special ed class
didn’t want to leave, each waving goodbye to us, smiling between
thank yous and saying they want to see us all soon. Each of the GV
Gives students felt the joy and genuine happiness that beamed from
the special ed class walking back to their classroom. Later their
teacher contacted our club advisor suggesting that since the kids
loved it so much, we make it a monthly event. Students of the special
ed class and GV Gives both can sometimes feel dejected or face
isolation, but the combination of fun activities and enthusiasm made
the environment inclusive and lively, important for the happiness of
each person.

Every moment I spend planning or playing is worthwhile: nurturing
connections, building empathy, and encouraging optimism, in myself
and my friends creates a more kind, compassionate society. Looking
forward, I hope to translate my passion for serving special needs
students into serving people with neurological diseases by majoring
in molecular biology with an emphasis on neurobiology at UC Berkeley,
conducting research that yields progress and solutions for more
effective and specialized treatments. With this scholarship, I will
be able to explore my potential by continuing my community service
efforts and pursuing the exceptional educational opportunities that
are available at UC Berkeley, providing the foundation necessary for
achieving success.

One girl was quietly concentrating on writing her name on the sidewalk
with chalk. She wrote Sasha in big pink letters, so I sat next to her
and wrote Katie in equally large bright green ones. Coincidentally,
those are the colors of fairies from Sasha’s favorite cartoon. As I
sat tracing handprints and coloring hearts with Sasha, I learned that
we had many things in common, we doodled flowers and stars, talked
about our mutual favorite cartoon, and giggled when a floating bubble
popped on her nose. Laughing with her was as simple as sitting with
her and talking, easily assuring that she wasn’t sad or lonely, but
just needed someone to take the first step. I wasn’t afraid of any
differences or barriers between us, proving the consolidative
qualities of patience and kindness.

Each month since that play date GV Gives has met up with our friends in
the special ed class with the goal brightening their day, always
resulting in the enlivening of our own.

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