Nestled in a corner amongst the cobbled stone streets of the Shaw Neighborhood in Saint Louis, the old brick church in front of me seemed ordinary. Unbeknownst to me, the program held inside would both solidify who I was and define my college experience. The program, Firm Foundations, provides free tutors for refugee children. Each tutor is paired with one student, which provides a stable and close personal relationship between tutor and student. After receiving my assignment from the program director, I anxiously walked to the table where a lone student sat. As I approached, he stood up and with a smile introduced himself as Wah Gay Moo, or Wah as he preferred. He was originally from Thailand, and currently enrolled in high school. We chatted for a bit. His energy was contagious and I liked him immediately.
Difficulties arose at first, mainly stemming from the language barrier. Wah had only been speaking English for two years, and was enrolled in high school courses. For the first time in my life, I appreciated the advantages I had growing up as a native English speaker in the United States. I wanted to use those advantages to benefit those who lacked that privilege. Driven by compassion and armed with my ability to adapt and excel in difficult situations, I eagerly searched for inventive ways to help Wah learn. For example, one day Wah was having difficulty understanding the difference between a mixture and a solution. He did not understand the definitions in his textbook because of his limited vocabulary. Pausing for second, I had an idea. I grabbed two cups and filled one with pencils and markers and one with water and milk poured together. Wah looked at me puzzled. I explained that the cup with pencils and markers was like a mixture, since you could take out and separate the pencils from the markers. However, the cup with the water and milk was like a solution because you could not take out and separate the water and milk. I felt exhilarated as his eyes widened with understanding, and he began to complete his homework. Moments like these, beginning with confusion, but ending with understanding, characterized my experience with Wah. We became close friends.
Reflecting on this experience, I believe that Wah helped me grow just as much as I helped him. Wah routinely told me that he wanted to be like me on day. His admiration caused me to realize how much I enjoyed being a mentor. Previously in my life I had functioned as a role model for youth, such as when I served as a Sunday School teacher. However, up until my time with Wah I had never really thought about how much being a mentor enriched my life. As I assisted Wah with his college application, something I was honored to do, I began to think mentorship was how I would find fulfillment in my life. Mentoring is my purpose. I truly enjoy helping others achieve their dreams, no matter how big or small. Wahs dream, excelling in his studies and attending college, was something with which I was grateful to help. Discovering my purpose motivated me to serve as a substitute teacher when I was between jobs. I relished every interaction I had with my students, for I knew that a single moment could have an impact that lasts years.
This summer, I was whisked away from civilization to the wilderness of northern New Mexico, and was provided with another opportunity to be a mentor to young men. I worked at the Philmont Scout Ranch, a Boy Scout high adventure camp in the southern Rocky Mountains. Besides acting as a trail guide and teaching troops how to survive on their 12 day treks, my job also dictated that I help the young men grow as they transition into adults. Many former scouts will attest that Philmont was where they first started becoming a man. I count myself in that number. Since I was only with the troops for three days, I needed to help the scouts learn to be self-sufficient by the time I left. Respecting the environment and one another, decision-making, and teamwork were just a couple of the lessons I taught. When the summer was over, I had a personal impact on 13 crews, around 100 scouts in total. Yes, I missed out on sunbathing at beaches, but I could not think of a better way to spend my summer.
Every evening of the third day I was with a troop, I gathered the scouts around the campfire for one final discussion. Many of the youth expressed their gratitude to me, saying that it has always been their dream to come to Philmont, and that they were glad I was a part of it. Strangely, through mentoring and helping them achieve their dreams, I was also the recipient of having my dreams fulfilled. I have discovered through mentoring others that it does not matter how large or small my contribution was in helping them, for every instance molded me into who I am today. I am a better person because of the roles they have played in my life. Not unlike the mountains I guided my troops across, I now face the difficult path of attending and graduating law school. However, I approach this demanding task as eagerly as I approached helping Wah with his college applications. His dream was to attend college. Mine is to attend law school. He may not realize this, but my experiences with him made me want to better myself, and led me to this moment where I want to challenge myself and grow by earning a Juris Doctorate degree. A society without the right and wholesome application of the law breeds a milieu ripe for tormentors rather than mentors. Only in a lawful society like ours can young people like Wah come and be all that they can be. I helped Wah achieve his dream. He is still helping me with mine.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Saint Louis University-Main Campus - Bachelor in Arts, Biology, General
ACT Composite: 33
ACT English: 35
ACT Math: 33
ACT Reading: 33
Piano, Hiking, Camping, Reading, History, Writing