In a few weeks, I will be packing up my life – putting away my clothes, my pictures, my home, in storage boxes and driving down to Baltimore for college. I will begin my freshman year of college at Johns Hopkins University – my dream college ever since I was in third grade. As I prepare for the next chapter of my life, I find myself reflecting on the past four years of my life, my time in high school and everything I did to get to this point. My family will be quick to remind me that admittance into my dream college is due to my own perspiration, however, I know that luck had a hand in this as well.
It was luck that Debbie Emery, Director of Community Volunteer Services, introduced me to the prevailing issue of homelessness in Bergen County. Her influence sparked my interest in studying homelessness and imagining programs to ameliorate the issue. It was luck that Debbie, then, took me under her wing and introduced me to her Bergen Volunteer Center family. My internship with the BVC was, honestly, the springboard that allowed me to jump into my future. Through my internship, I learned so much about my community – everything from its people to its organizations – and created so many meaningful connections.
As a BVC intern, I had the opportunity to develop and practice many important skills, such as humility, patience and communication. There were times when distressed Bergen County residents would climb up the BVC stairs, asking for help. I would listen to them, along with Debbie and the ladies up front, and direct them to the appropriate program to receive help. I also remember visiting the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center. It was humbling to witness the beds and the rooms kept for homeless individuals. Through these interactions, the BVC expanded my understanding of the human condition.
Debbie had put me in touch with the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative, a non-profit clinic. This was another force of luck; I began to intern at BVMI from the summer of 2017 and throughout my senior year of high-school. Through the clinic, I was able to explore access to healthcare for the underserved population, another issue I am interested in. All of these together shaped my desire to study Public Health and bring a positive change in my community.
Elma, we at BVC cannot wait to see the positive impact and influence that you will have in making our world a better place. KEEP ON SOARING HIGH!