Name: Riley Ann McCormick
From: Louisville, Kentucky
School: Mercy Academy
People in this world are determined to be successful. They spend up to fourteen
years in schooling, then go off to college. The lifestyle they live
has produced numerous opportunities for them to be the successful and
powerful people they have strived to be, but what about the people
who were never given these opportunities? What are they striving for?
A home, food, safety, equality.
As a senior in high school, I was given the eye-opening opportunity to work with
refugees from all over the world. My first semester of my senior year
I spent dedicated to these wonderful people. I worked at Americana,
an after school program for grades kindergarten to 12th. I
spent 170 hours there, working with a girl named Haja who was from
Syria. Haja was my biggest responsibility. I helped her with homework
every afternoon and went to college readiness meetings with her to
help her figure out her future. The challenges I faced as a volunteer
were as simple as opening up to Haja and the other refugees there. I
had a hard time not separating myself from them, but I quickly
realized how easy it was to talk to all of them and that they were no
different than me, they just came from a different background. I
loved seeing Haja have that ‘light bulb’ go off. Hearing the
confidence in her voice each time she understood something set a fire
inside of me. It made me feel as if she was changing my life, when
really I began this journey to change hers. Through Haja, I learned
that even if you do not spend all of those fourteen years at school,
you still can strive to be successful. Haja spent the first 11 years
of her life without schooling, instead she was escaping a country
that had no opportunities for her.
My goals do not necessarily line up with my volunteer work, but
that does not mean that the work I did is not always with me. As I
look forward in my future, I see a world that I have the ability to
change. I started that challenge when I met Haja and I continue that
by having an understanding of my surroundings and what is happening
throughout the world. My days with Haja definitely had an impact on
me and I hope they impacted her. Haja is going to college and is
extremely appreciative of the opportunities America has given her.
When I come back in ten to twenty years, I know she will be the
successful, powerful person that everyone strives to be.