Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2017 – Building for change

Name: Kaylee Martin
From: Seattle , Washington
Grade: Junior
School: University of Washington
Votes: 0

            Sometimes life has a set plan that we choose to follow, and other times we are
thrown in blind and have to follow along whether or not we want to. In 8
grade, life threw me a curve ball in the form of a youth group. I
stuck with it and by the time I was a sophomore I was ready to go on
the annual trip to Tijuana, Mexico to build houses for those in need.
I was filled with nervousness and excitement the moment we arrived to
the uneven, rocky, dirt slap that we were going to build a 12-foot by
24-foot house on. Prior to this moment I had done a multitude of fund
raisers, which at the time did not feel like it was worth it, but the
moment we arrived it all seemed so trivial. After a long week of
work, our job was done. We had given a meager house to a four-person
family who had previously been living in a shack with a tarp for a
roof. The gratitude shown by the family was like nothing I had ever
seen. Even with the extreme squalor they were living in, they still
brought us food and soda every day. Since that first spring break, I
have gone back two other times, each time being more eye opening and
rewarding then the last. I will never forget the kindness shown to me
by people who I could not even verbally communicate with, or the kids
who were still happy while playing amongst garbage.

On the first year of the trip I went for myself. I thought that my
horizons would be broadened like all of those who had gone on the
trip before me. I thought that my whole life would be changed. On the
very last day as we gave this family the keys to the new house we had
built, I realized that volunteering was not supposed to be about me
and changing my life. Instead the most valuable gift that one can
give is the gift that can never be repaid.

While my trips to Tijuana have not dramatically changed my life, they have
changed my perspective. I now look for the beauty in the mundane,
like the tiny colorful houses we built amongst garbage. Most
importantly, however, I have reset my priorities for what’s most
important in life. No longer do I value living in a giant house with
immense wealth, but instead I want to die knowing that I made the
biggest difference in the world that I could. I used to want to be an
engineer, but now I want to be a neuroscientist in order to discover
ways to cure brain diseases. If change is measured in longevity, then
I think that my trips to Tijuana have made an immense impact. Every
year I can look out over the city of shacks and see the bright paints
of the many houses built for change.

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