An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Maxine R. '20

The following is an excerpt from an assembly speech to Upper School students.  

Upper School GSL Information Night for current students and parents and guardians is Monday, Oct. 22.

I want to start off this presentation with a quote by Maya Angelou that many of you probably already know and can be found around the Global Service Learning office, but it goes like this: “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” The reason I use this quote is simple – it’s because this is what GSL is about. By going on GSL you are not ending world hunger, you are not ending poverty, and you are not finding a solution to world peace. But what you are doing is learning about what it takes to be a responsible, active global citizen – an agent of change. GSL is a time for you to develop raw, human connections by being exposed to new lifestyles and ordeals that one can't possibly imagine without having experienced, and GSL changes you by letting you experience that unimaginable. 

I came back from GSL with the impression that we, as privileged peoples receiving a high-quality education, have a duty to support – in any way we can – the less fortunate people of our world. Did you know that if you make at least $12,000 as an annual income, you are already part of the world’s small percentage of upper class people? And keep in mind that the average American makes between $50-60,000 annually. We are beyond fortunate to have been given the upper hand in life, and GSL acts as a constant reminder of our privilege. 

So what can we do? What can we do with all this privilege? You always hear people telling you to be agents of change – what does that entail? Well for starters, acknowledging the fact that there are disparities, that there are inequalities, and that there are always people in need is good. And I’m not saying that you need to travel to a developing country to do service, because you don’t – you can always do service here in Seattle. But if you’re looking to be more globally aware of our world’s differences and similarities, and you want to learn the beauty of foreign culture and language, and you want to help people, then I really recommend GSL. By living with people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and ideas we come to understand more about the world from their experiences and their challenges. We become diverse not only in numbers, but also in thought. Thank you, and daweyu!!