By Lindsey Smith '14
I just dropped off two of my closest friends at their house after our final Park Scholar event, the End-of-Year Picnic. I listened to my fellow seniors talk about their identities that were found because of the program. We all reflected on our Ithaca experience and there was the mutual feeling that we would not be the individuals we are today without each other and the program.
We were originally bonded because of our love for communications and our drive to impact our society. Now, I am proud to stand next to my inspirational friends. I have grown-up with these 18 teenagers who have grown into outstanding young adults.
Personally, this program has given me support, confidence and the safety to find and explore my passions. I have been challenged by the experiences the program has fostered, like the chance to study off-campus. These journeys have given me new perspectives that have enhanced my Ithaca experience. I look back at my first-year, a time when I joined multiple organizations, all with different missions, and strived to prove that I could be a Park Scholar to the program and to myself.
But over the past two years, I realized there really is no “typical” Park Scholar. We all bring unique passions that have shaped our Park Scholar culture, a culture that includes all visions. By focusing on my interests, the program has allowed me to discover service that resonates with me. It has helped me grow into my authentic self and I have found an innate dedication that will exist in my new home, outside of Ithaca.
As I look back at my Ithaca experience, I did not realize the like-minded peers with whom I surrounded myself. Almost every organization that fueled my excitement was connected to the empowerment of youth. As the now past president of a nonprofit that focuses on providing children with access to both food and education, I reflect and see that experience has helped define my leadership style and future path.
Reflection is a challenge. It brings the end to an event, time or experience. But as I reflect, I realize now that I know myself better than I imagined as a first-year student. I know what excites me. I know what frustrates me. I know what I value. I would have never found the motivation that reflection brings without the support of my friends in the Park Scholar community.