Working with children has always been something that I found crazy, partially because I liked it so much and partially because how could I possibly? The first time a group of kids were plopped in front of me was at Girl Scout camp, when I was a volunteer counselor. It was, well, insane. The girls couldn’t have been much younger than I was, maybe eight or nine, and they were absolutely wild. Every day it was something new, Becky forgot to bring a snack, Marissa got a sunburn, Sarah is going frog hunting. I expected myself to hate the drama of it all, but instead, I thrived.
As I got older I started to volunteer at Outdoor School, which is a program in Oregon that brings sixth graders into the woods for a week to teach them about nature. You know, hell. By some people’s standards, at least. But instead I fell absolutely in love. I went as many times as was allowed, sacrificing many weeks of school for the woods. And as I spent more time around the kids, getting to know them as people, I started to realize that they were not as simple as I’d thought.
To put in plainly, I grew up in suburbia. Soccer games, barbeques, white picket fences. And for a while, that’s how I thought the world was. Adults tried to hide who they were too much that I didn’t know any better. But there was one type of people who didn’t hide who they were, partially because they didn’t yet know how. Kids. As I started working with them, I realized that they were experiencing more than I could imagine. It was always a shock, like someone just punched me in the gut, when I realized what they had said. When I realized just how sheltered I truly was.
I had always thought the cabins we stayed in were pretty disgusting, filled with spiders and mice and packed wall to wall with bunks. I used to make snide comments about it, until one girl told me our small cabin was bigger than her whole apartment. I was having kids read a packet out loud, and internally getting a little annoyed at one of the slower kids, until he started to apologize saying he’d only learned English six years ago. I was just going to the bathroom one day and listened to a boy explain to a kid from another school how he had to be taken away from his mom. While I was on the toilet. Jaw on the floor, right next to all the old toilet paper. How could I possibly be so blind?
It was startling to me how rife these sixth graders were with truth. It was like I was entering the real world for the first time. At outdoor school, I caught the first glimpses of what education should be like. Not separated by social class or status, but all together so that we could all learn from each other’s experiences. I want to work, in college, in graduate school, in my career, to bridge this divide between students. It seems like something so small but just the action of having kids around other children they wouldn’t normally interact with can be life changing. It helps stop the deep divide we have in this country, the polarization that keeps so many teens and adults apart. But when they’re kids, they don’t care about that. All they want to do is listen and learn and understand what everyone else has to say. That is what the future of education should be. And that’s what I want to help develop.
Scholarship Essay by Zoe Carver
UCA’s most recent Scholarship Essay Contest for High School Juniors and Seniors officially ended on May 15, 2020. While the theme has always been to explore ways to make a more caring world, our most recent Essay Contest specifically asked how they would make a more caring world in one of four categories – Children – Animals – Reforestation – Elderly. The winning essays have been posted and awards distributed.
Because there were so many impressive essays submitted from across the U.S., we decided to share many of these students’ inspiring caring actions with you in this publication. Through their essays, the students provide a refreshing insight into their minds and hearts, offering an in depth view of our world that we often overlook. They take us on a journey rich in knowledge, personal experience and creative solutions. It is our hope you will feel as informed and inspired as we do. We are proud to present to you the writings, thoughts and dreams for a more caring future through these articles.