For those of you who may not have seen this Facebook post from late December, we offer these words in acknowledgement of all your hard work, perseverance and accomplishments last semester:
“Congratulations Scholars! You did it! You made it through another semester of high school/college/life on the planet. Not only did you survive, you thrived. You pushed yourselves. You went new places, met new people and tried new things.You grew. You lifted others up. You kept going when the struggle got real. You remembered to laugh and keep it in all in perspective. YOU DID NOT GIVE UP! So during this holiday season, take some time to look back on how far you've come and look forward to what lies ahead. So proud of each and every one of you!”
The beginning of a new year is often the time when we, collectively, look back on all that has happened in our lives and resolve to make the changes that will move us forward in the direction we wish to go. Some of us will make resolutions to take better care of ourselves: workout more, eat better, get more sleep, call home more often, etc. Some of us may decide to change a habit that no longer serves us; the one I hear most often from our Scholars is “no more procrastinating!” And some of us will decide that this is the year when we will step out of our comfort zones, try something new, get involved, and work to make the world a better place.
A lot has happened in the world since our last newsletter was published. Paris happened, and after our Facebook profile pictures changed colors, we were reminded that Beirut happened too. Mass shootings in Charleston, Roseburg, Colorado Springs and San Bernardino reminded us once again that we, as Americans, have a serious gun problem. Meanwhile, the “Black Lives Matter” movement continued to speak out against police brutality and racial inequality, sparking a heated national debate on why and how some lives seem to matter more than others. Student protests on the campus of the University of Missouri (Mizzou), claiming that the administration was not doing enough to combat racial inequality on campus, prompted the school’s President and Chancellor to step down and sparked similar student demonstrations from Occidental to Yale. And, lest we forget during these chilly months that lie ahead, 2015 went down as the warmest year on record, confirming that climate change is upon us.
While all of these events can seem overwhelming, particularly when we are all fighting our own personal battles, I encourage you to avoid the temptation to ignore them or simply look away. This is an EXCITING time to be a college student! Your college years are unique for many reasons, but perhaps what marks them as truly special is the opportunity to engage in thoughtful discourse with a diverse group of young people from all over the world. Young people who, like you, are set to inherit the world, warts and all. Young people who have the opportunity to develop the skill, passion and voice needed to play an active role in creating the world in which you want to live. If you make just one resolution this year, consider this one: TALK TO PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT THAN YOU. Hear their perspective. Keep an open mind. Try to figure out how they came to believe what they believe, to value what they value, to feel what they feel and to see the way they see. The ability to do so is a skill that will serve you well throughout your life.