The summer before my junior year, I went on the Amigos del Mundo Youth Interchange-Study-Work Preparatory-Foreign Experience Program in Belize, South America. I went there intending to do community service, but I ended up doing much more: discovering that I was more than just an intelligent and outgoing college-bound woman and National Merit Scholar.
"Community service" doesnt accurately describe what I was doing: I was serving people in the community. They, in turn, taught me how to wash my clothes in the river.
Before I could help others, though, I had to face my fear of failure. Thankfully, I conquered that fear, just as I when I first became treasurer of the International Club, I was afraid of failure, but we ended up raising $230 and taking a field trip to the Mexican restaurant.
The animals in the Belize jungle are like the different groups in my school. The jocks are the fierce lions; the preppies are the proud snakes; the druggies are the drugged-out hummingbirds; and the deaf kids are fish.
In the rainforest, you never know whats lurking around the corner. Similarly, as co-captain of the cross-country team I had to sacrifice a lot of my leisure time to make the team the best it could be. After being attacked by a tiger in the jungle, I realized that the only limits in my life are those that I choose to place on myself. And I dont believe in limits, as any one of pep rallies I helped organize would demonstrate.
I recall some wise words spoken by a tribal elder in Belize, a medicine man who reminded me of my father (Marshton 70). He said, "When I was your age, I was involved in a painful coming-of-age ritual." Thats when I understood that I enjoyed voting in school elections as well as acting as stage manager of our schools production of "Bye Bye Birdie."
My fondest memory of Belize is not of teaching the young girls lacrosse, or even building the computer center. It is of the time during my freshman year when I won honorable mention for my essay "Why We Need Trees." Trees make up a large part of the Belize population, and many Belizians told me that if they didnt have trees they would have to stop eating bark. "Beestes and brides couden speke and singe, and so bifel that in a daweninge," said Chaucer over 600 years ago. I couldnt agree more.
Whenever I sell tickets for school dances, I always think of Belize.