My life is one of many experiences. Living with an open mind has allowed me to experience life in a way that encourages growth and understanding. Throughout my life and time at Washburn, I've been blessed with the opportunity of meeting many wonderful people who work endlessly to make learning unique and valuable for each student.
The Washburn Transformation Experience is one the avenues that encourages learning for the individual. Two summers ago, through AmeriCorps, I worked at a youth empowerment camp in Topeka, KS. I was charged with mentoring children, aiding in academic activities, and planning field trips. Little did I know that those two months would literally transform my life.
One day while serving lunch, my friend (as I called all the kids) came to me and asked why I was drinking from a soda can. These kids have vivid imaginations, so I told him I was thirsty, and then asked him what he would do with it.
"Well, my Dad cuts it open, uses his special needle, and takes his medicine with it"
The "medicine" my 9 year old friend was referring to was heroin use. Shocked, I sit and listen as a boy who can barely remember to write from left-to-right gives my step by step instruction on how his Dad takes his "medicine" on a daily basis.
Transformational? I think so.
As many of you know, in 2 weeks I will head to Costa Rica as an exchange student as part of a language and culture immersion program. I will be taking classes, traveling to different countries throughout Central America, and living with a family that is Spanish speaking only. As Washburn was sponsoring a 10-day trip, and I wanted to undergo an experience I could remember and cherish something more than a few days, I contacted a school, sent a few emails, and booked a flight from May 15th to August 15th. I have no clue what this journey will bring, but eagerly greet the challenge. I am aware that it will be challenging, shocking, and emotionally taxing, but I believe that one leaves a strong legacy by the challenges they overcome.
Immersion is defined as a state of being deeply engaged or involved; absorption. As I think of what this immersion will consist of, I feel anxiety and excitement all in one. I hope to leave this experience engaged in a deeper meaning of myself and my purpose. I hope be involved with a new culture and gain an appreciation for new ideas, customs, and thoughts. I hope to absorb this experience as it comes with all it entails.
I have no doubt that I too will transform those I encounter while away. According to John C. Maxwell author of Leadership 101, each of us influences at least ten thousand people in our lifetime, and we must determine carefully how we will use that influence. I have been blessed with a contagious laugh, a one of a kind strut, and vivid personality. Over time I have learned to use these attributes to stir a dialogue that evokes a new thought process for others. It is my hope that meeting me will challenge ones beliefs not only about African American males, but also people with disabilities and those who stand out simply as different; those causing you raise an eyebrow as they walk by.
As I enter into this next chapter of my life, I enter as before - with no preconceived notions or expectations. I think I will simply relax and enjoy, letting life write this chapter, celebrating each role I am fortunate enough to play.