Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Opening Closed Hearts and Minds

Name: Kyle Jackson Campbell
From: Jacksonville, Florida
Grade: 11
School: Darnell Cookman Middle/High
Votes: 0

          My efforts to volunteer have left a positive impact on the world for sure but, upon reflection, it is clear that I have changed for the better as well. During the summers of 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 I volunteered for my religious group. It is an annual commitment among members of this close-knit community to host a non-profit festival known as “Pagan Pride Day” where the public is granted insight and education into our group in a fun way. I put in over 50 hours a year which consisted of meetings regarding planning, numerous fundraisers (yard sales and bake sales), as well as the actual event
where I helped the many participants and vendors. I wore several hats as I was a planner, a baker, an aid for vendors, and even a hula-dancer (which happens to be quite effective at attracting attention during our fundraising). It was the most responsibility I have ever been given which was overwhelming at first and served as my biggest challenge but as the festival comes to a close every year I remember why I put in all the effort in the first place. It fills my exhausted body with pride that I helped bring about such an amazing event that brings thousands of people together and taught me that, if my group could pull of a festival of this caliber, I have the skills to accomplish anything and reach any dream.

          Though volunteer opportunity does not much to do with my aspirations to become a computer programmer in the future, I cannot deny that the skills gained along the way are applicable in any scenario. The self-esteem and self-worth that I gained was a massive confidence boost that frankly, I needed desperately as I was quite demotivated before I realized the joys of making a difference. I cracked open many closed minds over the years and provided insight and change in people’s perceptions. “Paganism” is a word that makes many shudder but it is my hope that through these open events Paganism
will no longer be regarded as “evil” or “scary” but rather just another culture that people of the Earth share and it is my
belief that these festivals are helping bring about this change. I’ve seen, with my own eyes, outsiders become interested in our community. I’ve seen how every year the number of visitors to our event grows dramatically. I’ve been seeing the creation of a brighter, more welcoming and accepting future.

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