As my high school graduation waits right around the corner, I've reflected quite a bit on the things that have most impacted me throughout the past four years of my life. I feel that I've done a lot here at home, but being president of student council, playing softball, and excelling academically don't even begin to measure up to the impact of my experiences I had through GLA.
In the summer of 2013 I travelled to Guatemala through the 2-week "Children of the Maya" program. As my first experience ever out of the United States, the program was well organized, immersive in the local culture, and all-around showed me the amazing way that traveling abroad can bring new perspective. Through everything, including an unfortunate incident in which our van crashed on the way to a weekend excursion (everyone was okay!), GLA was nothing but supportive. I built a commitment to service and global consideration in everything I do. I came home from the program looking forward to future endeavors internationally.
Initially after the Guatemala program, I didn't think that another GLA program would be an option. However, in March of 2014 my dad mentioned the possibility. After much debate about which program to choose, I decided on the 3-week "Building a Sustainable World" trip in the Dominican Republic. If I thought Guatemala was life-changing, this experience completely flipped my world upside-down. Not only did I meet my best friends on this trip, but I also saw the true value of sustainable development and community. Upon my return home, teachers, friends, and family alike commented on my newfound happiness and passion. To put it simply, I was invigorated with a new drive I didn't even know existed.
Because of GLA, I was lucky enough not only to find my passion, but also to express it through my application to the Tulane University Deans' Honor Scholarship, which I actually received. I will attend Tulane starting this fall to study public health and international development. (See my video for the DHS scholarship at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lWbOR7JYfg )
GLA - this is my love letter to you, an expression of my undying gratitude for your programs, your staff, and your commitment to doing "voluntourism" right, thereby giving volunteer travel the good name it deserves. You have changed my life, and for that I thank you.