I was seventeen when I traveled to Stockholm, Sweden, to serve as a junior village counselor with CISV International, a nonprofit organization that promotes peace education for children throughout the world.
While in Stockholm, I helped plan an activity where the children work together to build a city. The kids poured their hearts and souls into it. They then walked around to see what everyone else had created, but the activity also involved someone feeding a lie to each group: someone had damaged their city. The kids then discussed whether they wanted to get revenge by damaging the other cities—and some did. The activity simulated how easily conflict can be created and the difficulty of reaching peace after a conflict. After the activity, the kids discussed the exercise, and one boy in particular just got it—the whole purpose of CISV clicked with him. He recognized that bad things happen in the world, but there is room for people to do good and make a positive impact. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to go to law school so I could advocate for others and make a difference in the world.
Fast-forward almost a decade later, to my last semester at UT Law. This winter, I worked for several weeks as one of five individuals in charge of a CISV village program in Lima, Peru. Instead of museums and typical tourist activities, our camp featured cultural presentations from the different countries represented and activities that introduced the children to topics like stereotypes, race, gender, disability, trust, peace, war, and diversity. And any time you have seventy-two people living together in close quarters, conflict is bound to happen. However, it was exciting to help the kids learn to work together, learn from each other, build trust, and enable them to become active members of society.
Little did I know that I would connect my legal knowledge and experience to a camp focused on the educational development of eleven-year-olds. At one point during the camp, two participants got into a physical altercation, and I was tasked as the investigator to get to the bottom of the conflict. I treated it as a legal proceeding: I interviewed the parties, talked to witnesses, and gathered evidence. I also faced cultural and language barriers throughout the program and used the negotiation and communication skills I’ve learned to overcome these obstacles. Because of both UT Law and CISV, I know I’m now prepared to successfully overcome similar challenges during my legal career.
The world needs our help, abroad and in our local communities. As an aspiring lawyer and Tennessee Volunteer, I seek to make the world a better place as I advocate for those who need a helping voice, and I plan to commit my life to pro bono service and the educational development of children—our future leaders.