Fundraising High Schoolers Give Me Hope For The Future

The High Schoolers Who Raised $180,000 For Charity Are The Reason I Still Believe In Humanity

A true story, and one very close to my heart.

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Yes, you read that right. One hundred eighty thousand dollars. For charity. In two months. And I'm lucky to say that I got to be a part of it.

Last year, I was a senior in high school trying to balance college applications and five AP classes and extracurriculars all at once. I had too much to do, but somehow my number one commitment was student council. Why is that, you ask?

Since 2004, my high school's student council had orchestrated an annual charity ball to raise money for local nonprofits. At first, it had just been a nice thing to do, but as the years went on, the amount of money raised kept increasing. When I was a freshman, they raised $92,000 for Interfaith Food Shuttle between October and December, and I remember being convinced that they could ever beat that. (Spoiler alert! They did!) All the people I met on council told me it was a life-changing experience, and I wanted in.

I ended up joining my junior year, and I realized that the people I was working with were some of the most dedicated and passionate kids I'd ever known. Although we set lofty monetary goals for ourselves each year (100k, 120k, and 150k my respective sophomore, junior, and senior years), we didn't define ourselves based on the money (even though we made, like, CRAZY amounts). What really mattered to us was the service. We spent time with people in homeless shelters, we volunteered in food pantries, we canvassed in our neighborhoods, and we informed our community about our cause. It was developing into a school-wide effort, with fundraising events like kickball tournaments and coffee sales to engage the student body to help out.

Of course, it was super stressful at the time, but now that I'm not doing it anymore I see how much I miss it. There's nothing like working towards a mutual goal with a bunch of people that want to achieve it just as badly as you that can motivate you as much as Charity Ball did. Our drive was reflected in the way we talked to our peers about donating or educated strangers on how impactful our contribution would be, or in the joy we expressed at the final showing of the check. I was mostly amazed that we were just a group of kids that cared enough about the world to not give up, even if the deadline was 10 days away and we still needed to raise 60 thousand dollars.

Last year's Charity Ball sticks in the back of my head like it was yesterday. Everyone was nervous, but we knew we would be proud no matter how much we made. The true meaning of Charity Ball was that an entire community- our school, other schools, other school systems, local companies, people from other states, or other countries even- was so willing to drop their differences for this one thing that benefited the greater good. I can't pretend to say it could've been done without the support from our friends, families, and teachers: it couldn't have been. Every person involved in the process gave their own part, and that's the reason we were able to pull it off.

Recently, I spoke with the current student body vice president. She thinks of me as her role model, but in all honesty, I'm way more inspired by her. I can tell she genuinely cares about the organization they're working with this year and wants to help as much as she can. It really touches me that they keep doing this year after year not because they necessarily have something to prove, but really out of the goodness of their hearts. And in a world where we're fed terrible news every day, the stuff that they do gives me a lot of hope.

The kids aren't just alright- they're awesome.

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Please Spare Me From The Three Months Of Summer Break When People Revert Back To High Schoolers

They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

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I know a surprising amount of people who actually couldn't wait to go home for the summer. They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

Me? Not so much. I don't mean to sound bitter. It's probably really comforting to return to a town where everyone knows your name, where your younger friends want you around to do their prom makeup, and where you can walk through Target without hiding in the deodorant aisle. But because I did this really annoying thing where my personality didn't really develop and my social anxiety didn't really loosen its grip on me until college, I have a very limited number of people to return to.

If you asked someone from my high school about Julia Bond, they would probably describe her as shy, studious, and uptight. I distinctly remember being afraid of people who JUULed (did you get high from it? was it illegal? could I secondhand smoke it and get lung cancer?) and crying over Algebra 1 in study hall (because nothing says fun and friendly like mascara steaks and furious scribbling in the back corner while everyone else throws paper airplanes and plays PubG Mobile).

I like to tell my college friends that if I met High School Julia, I would beat her up. I would like to think I could, even though I go to the gym now a third of the time I did then. It's not that it was High School Julia's fault that she closed herself off to everyone. She had a crippling fear of getting a B and an even worse fear of other people. But because she was so introverted and scared, College Julia has nothing to do but re-watch "The Office" for the 23rd time when she comes back.

Part of me is jealous of the people who came into their own before college. I see pictures of the same big friend groups I envied from a distance in high school, all their smiling faces at each other's college football games and pool parties and beach trips, and it makes me sad that I missed out on so many friendships because I was too scared to put myself out there. That part of me really, really wishes I had done things differently.

But a bigger, more confident part of me is really glad I had that experience. Foremost, everything I've gone through has shaped me. I mean, I hid in the freaking bathroom during lunch for the first two weeks of my freshman year of high school. I never got up to sharpen my pencil because I was scared people would talk about me. I couldn't even eat in front of people because I was so overwhelmingly self-conscious. I remember getting so sick at cross country practice because I ran four or five miles on an empty stomach.

Now, I look back and cringe at the ridiculousness because I've grown so much since then. Sure, I still have my quirks and I'm sure a year from now I'll write an article about what a weirdo Freshman Julia was. But I can tell who had the same experience as me. I can tell who was lonely in high school because they talk to the kids on my floor that study by themselves. I can tell who was afraid of speaking up because they listen so well. I can tell who was without a friend group because they stand by me when others don't. I can tell who hated high school, because it's obvious that they've never been as happy as they are now.

My dislike for high school, while inconvenient for this summer, might be one of the best things to happen to me. I learned how to overcome my fears, how to be independent, and how to make myself happy. I never belonged in high school, and that's why I will never take for granted where I belong here at Rutgers.

So maybe I don't have any prom pictures with a bunch of colorful dresses in a row, and maybe I didn't go to as many football games as I should have. Maybe I would've liked pep rallies, and maybe I missed out on senior week at the beach. But if I had experienced high school differently, I wouldn't be who I am today.

I wouldn't pinch myself daily because I still can't believe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I wouldn't smile so hard every time I come back from class and hear my floormates calling me from the lounge.

I wouldn't well up when my roommate leaves Famous Amos cookies on my desk before a midterm, or know how to help the girl having a panic attack next to me before a final, or hear my mom tell my dad she's never seen me this happy before.

If I had loved high school, I wouldn't realize how amazing I have it in college. So amazing, in fact, that I never want to go home.

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Are Short Term Service Trips Truly Helpful?

Short term service can be helpful or harmful.

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Before going on my spring break service trip my group read two articles - "The White Tourist's Burden" and "Short Term Missions: Are they worth the cost?" - and listen to a podcast titled "Building Humane Societies." Each of these sources discusses short term service trips and whether or not they are successful in achieving their purpose. These trips have both pros and cons that need to be evaluated and those going on these trips need to be aware of their privileges and the situations that the people they are going to help are going through.

The articles' overarching theme is whether or not short term service trips are effective in regard to how money is spent and the work that is done. The thousands of dollars that result from many hours of fundraising can typically be better off spent if it were to be directly donated to the people they trips are in place to help. Such monetary donations would form jobs and support school funding for the locals.

When people travel to do short term service, they are usually there just long enough to get their project done. When they are there they do not take the time to meet the locals and/or teach them how to do what they are doing. This ends up being not as helpful in the long run and leaves the locals feeling worse about their situation. An example in one of the articles was that a group went on a short term trip abroad to build houses. However, the work that they were doing easily could have been done just as good by the locals if they were given proper training. This would also open up a lot of jobs for them which will, in turn, boost their living conditions and work life. The people on the trip also kept to themselves majority of the time and didn't converse with the locals to gain any understanding of their culture. Short term service trips such as this would be more successful if the participants were to take this time to connect with the locals.

In relation, the podcast focused on how low-income communities are being eliminated and people pushed out of their homes with increasing fees and property tax. These low-income areas are then turned into more affluent communities in which only the rich can afford to live. The new apartment complexes and housing being built are all standard and basic, too similar to one another. The people living in them are not creating a sense of community and the neighborhoods are not very neighborly. The main takeaway of this podcast is that we should not be building houses, we should be building homes - a place that is safe for people to learn, live, grow, and meet new people/form friendships.

These articles greatly changed my perspective of short term service trips and how truly successful they actually are in practice. This is something that I reflected on greatly before going on my short term service trip over spring and something that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life. I believe it is important for anyone who is going to be a part of a short term service trip to be aware of this knowledge and approach interactions with the locals of the area they are traveling to in a more positive manner.

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