For the Win is a guest blog series featuring the remarkable initiatives that young Americans are advancing to win the future for their communities. Each week we highlight a new young person and learn about their inspiring work through their own words. Submit your story to appear in the For the Win guest blog series.
Clay, a 17 year-old from Lake Park, Ga., is a member of the Youth Advisory Council at generationOn, the youth enterprise of Points of Light. Clay, a homeschooled high school senior, combined his interests in the Spanish language and reading to develop a bilingual reading program for elementary school age children at local libraries and schools in his community. The program, Bilingual Adventures in Spanish and English, or BASE, encourages literacy and inspires cross-cultural communication among youth in his community.
What is the one thing humanity has tried to achieve, but has yet to obtain? The answer: world peace. Why does it seem to always slip through our fingers? Perhaps the answer is a lack of understanding between cultures. We acknowledge the presence of other cultures and customs in our world, but do we accept them? Some do and some most certainly do not. I have always strived to not judge people by their skin color or their beliefs. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Christian or a Muslim. It doesn’t matter whether you are Vietnamese or Mexican. It’s about your character and the actions you take throughout your life. In the past few years, I certainly feel that I have become more culturally aware. With a little faith and curiosity, cultural acceptance (world peace), could be just around the corner.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn a second language. I began studying Spanish four years ago and have never been so committed to anything in my entire life. I’ve decided that instead of just soaking up the wonderful language and not using it, I will apply it to the rest of my life. I hope to become a bilingual medical doctor or as called in Spanish “un médico bilingüe”. One of the greatest things I have gained from learning the Spanish language is the ability to not only speak with approximately half a billion people across the globe (especially the 6,000 within my own community), but also the ability to learn from each and every one of those 500 million souls.
Each week I volunteer time at a community center to teach Hispanic immigrants English. I have heard many stories of triumph, tragedy, culture and ideas beautifully foreign to me. I believe that through all of these conversations I have acquired a profound cultural education. I’ve come to find that in the real world, it’s not knowing about things like Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny that make you knowledgeable, but how much you know about people. It’s like the age old saying “I’m rich not because of money, but because of love.” I believe that everyone should be rich in the knowledge of other people, other cultures, and ideas. Perhaps if we were, then we would all be rich in peace and love, too.
Our differences make us unique. To some people this makes other human beings and cultures scary. Many fear what they do not know. That is why we don’t have world peace; we just don’t know. The differences can be very attractive as well; arousing the curiosity of a select few. It is because of this curiosity that we are making strides to peace and cooperation. We are learning. Where would we be without experts on Egyptian Society or Farsi translators for the United Nations? I still have a lot to learn about other people. We all do.
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Ronnie Cho is an Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.