"It is empowering to feel that you are writing your own narrative."

May 25, 2020

I am attending the University of Chicago this fall as a QuestBridge Scholar. Only 85 students in the entire country received this full-ride scholarship to UChicago. When pondering why I chose UChicago, it would honestly be easier to list what I did not like about the school. Because it would be a list of zero things. I received the privilege of attending the Young Leaders Summit this last summer and it was held at UChicago. I fell in love moments before stepping onto campus. The summit changed my life in four days and I could not stop wondering what UChicago could do for me in four years. I even wrote in my supplement that an old man walking down the street on campus crossed the street over to me because he saw me starring at his dog and he let me pet them. I later found out that he was the president of the school. The community already was so accepting and open immediately to me and my peers. That is a place where I can feel vulnerable but ready to flourish at the same time.

I have considered a career within a multitude of different fields. Although I have spread myself a bit thin in trying to expose myself to these fields, my passion never diluted for the work I was doing even if I was not sure if I would continue doing it. I hate the phrase “dream” job. I push myself to attain more of my ambitious aspiration but at the end of the day some dreams just stay dreams. I am someone who pours their all into their work, it is disheartening to work so hard and still come up short. That being said, I would not call it a “dream job” but an ideal destination. I would like to end my career in law in the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. I want to become a Supreme Court Justice. Something about interpreting the law and setting precedents that will be followed for decades is extremely fascinating to me.

International Relations, Politics, and Law have been a lot of what I have consumed myself with this past academic year after realizing that I belong in this field. I have wanted to pursue multiple fields in the past, mostly because I just copied what my sister wanted to do. When I landed on Law and International affairs this was the first time I had not copied my sister. It is empowering to feel that you are writing your own narrative. This was a pivotal moment in my life because I had finally grown out of my sister’s shadow and was a big deal to me to feel like I have the capacity to make my own decisions. Specifically, I had really gotten passionate about social justice work and interpreting the law when I had my own part in changing legislation in two states. With the PERIOD Movement, I have worked on the public policy side to pressure legislators to end the tampon tax and make menstruation products available for free in all schools. It is so rewarding to impact the lives of people who have had to endure adversity. Furthermore, I have worked with Students for Justice in Palestine and really got into the Free Palestine Movement. I have considered it vital for me to bring awareness to the apartheid and genocide because I as long as I have a voice, I can stand up for those without one.

 


"I am ready to learn a lot about myself and have my passion and grit come out through my work."

May 14, 2020

This week I received a package from the Dell Foundation. Earlier in March, I was named as a Dell Scholar. I received the Dell Scholarship because Bottom Line offered me the

opportunity, and I received help during the workshop. It was a huge surprise and definitely a highlight of my week to receive a package from them. It included a Dell laptop, which I desperately needed, and a Dell backpack and water bottle. Bottom Line helped me get this package by exposing me to the opportunity, editing my essays, and checking up with me throughout the process. I get to say I am a Dell Scholar, and it feels more solidified after this week.

My biggest challenge has been accepting the fact that I will not have all the milestone events I have been longing for. Every senior activity has been officially canceled since we are not going back to school for the remainder of the academic year. Part of me hoped that we could hold these events in-person if this all went away. I have gone through insurmountable all-nighters and long weeks because I have needed to work twice as hard as my peers throughout high school. I was never celebrated throughout that rigorous and brutal process, and now I feel like I never will be. However, this has also been a time for reflection. I am proud of my accomplishments, and I am proud I have done well. I navigated my way through high school by always keeping my aspirations in mind. I will not let this pandemic take away my narrative and the story I have written for myself.

My last challenge was in regards to how I could not picture my future and seeing what my first year at UChicago might look like. I feel like I have networked with the right people to help my transition, regardless of whether that transition is remote. I have learned to stop beating myself up for the added pressure and anxiety that has come with this pandemic. Everyone is experiencing it with me. That has helped me become more sincerely empathetic, and in the future, I know I will be all the better because of it.

My plans for the next academic year have not changed. If my first year is online or in-person, I will still be pursuing higher education at the University of Chicago. Hopefully, my motivation to set my foundation at the University of Chicago does not change as well if classes are moved online.

Something I have been working on, to pass the time, is starting a chapter of the PERIOD Movement on UChicago’s campus. My chapter at UChicago has been approved. I feel underprepared for taking a leadership role in a new community without stepping foot on campus. I have been talking to other chapters at institutions that are close to UChicago to get advice.

I am ready to learn a lot about myself and have my passion and grit come out through my work.


"I miss my teachers and friends. I was unknowingly walking down the hallways of high school for the last time. I never got a proper goodbye to the place where I had grown the most, failed the most, and flourished the most."

April 30, 2020

I'm excited to share that since my last post, a collaboration I had done with the PERIOD Movement was published! The PERIOD Movement has been fighting to take down the tampon tax in all 50 states, as well as, serve low-income women who do not have access to these necessary products all the time.

Before quarantine, I had taken part in a round table discussion with members of the PERIOD Movement to have an open dialogue about the work we wanted to accomplish. In the video, I discussed stigmas that come with having a period and how to mobilize people who do not have a period to be allies.

I've been struggling with picturing what my life is going to be like in the coming months.  How might the pandemic impact my aspirations? I feel like we are always getting new information about COVID-19. It concerns me that states are starting to reopen when we have yet to understand what this virus is capable of.

I was accepted into a summer program at the Unversity of Chicago (which is the institution I am committed to). The program was canceled, and UChicago is looking for virtual alternatives. I depended on this program to help build my foundation at UChicago. Now that I will not be able to maximize all the advantages of the program, it is going to be hard for me to adjust to the rigor there. Now, I am nervous about the preparation that I need to feel prepared on my first day.

Considering that we have been dealing with a global epidemic, my teachers have been giving me a light course load. I have not found it too hard to adapt to remote learning, considering that I am only taking AP courses. The College Board cut many units from the AP exam, so my teachers have been transitioning to more review lessons. There is not any "learning" going on.

Through reflection, I see that my learning style is more hands-on. When I collaborate with my peers, through discussions, someone always sparks a thought in my head and vice-versa. So I rely on bouncing off ideas between people. That is something that just cannot happen through a screen.

I could use networking support. All I can think about right now are the next steps. I feel like I am ready to venture out and connect with more communities. Being in touch with students in Chicago or remote internship opportunities would help me feel more productive and take control of the narrative that this epidemic is setting for us.

I miss my teachers and friends. I was unknowingly walking down the hallways of high school for the last time. I never got a proper goodbye to the place where I had grown the most, failed the most, and flourished the most. I am a different person leaving Fort Hamilton than the person I was going in, and I wanted everyone that supported me to know that.

Feeling burnt out was something that had become routine. But now I have done the most reflecting I have ever done with all of this free time. Furthermore, getting a full night of sleep every day for more than a week is not something I have been able to do since I was born.

"Embracing empathy is the rudimentary basis of being human, and now more than ever is when it can do some good." We all can understand each other's struggles a little bit better now.

I am hoping the idea of human empathy can remain instilled in us. The world may become more beautiful because of it.


"Bottom Line has given me something to look forward to and something to keep pushing for -- my education."

April 17, 2020

My name is Youssef. I live in New York City, and I am part of Bottom Line in New York. I am committed to attending the University of Chicago next fall. I am aiming for a Master's degree at UChicago through a joint degree program, and I will be a part of their 2024 graduating class.

So far, all of my classes have moved to Google Classroom. We use that platform to connect through digital discussions, and all of our assignments are posted and completed through the program. A few of my teachers have also utilized Zoom in an attempt to have more enriching discussions and put some life into the dragged-out lessons on Khan Academy.

This change has been challenging. It's difficult to navigate this shift in such short notice. I am currently taking 5 AP classes, and the course work was rigorous while in class. Working on this alone with a screen has made the content harder to grasp.

One big win in my life is becoming a Bank of America Student Leader. It is an internship that is open nation-wide and has a 5% acceptance rate. I was given the honorable distinction and hopefully get to intern at a Bank of America this summer.

My biggest challenge has been my family life. Now that I've been home most of the time, I have taken a more active role as a caretaker to my brother, who has cerebral palsy, as well as managing general housework. It has also been mentally exhausting to do the same thing every day. I have been continuously stimulated academically for the last four years. It is upsetting and depriving that I do not get that same excitement to have discussions with my peers.

I had a lot of exciting things planned to wrap up my year. I had UChicago's destination overnight trip, where I could have met my future classmates for the first time. Additionally, I had the DC summit for the Bank of America student leaders, my senior awards night, and the Bottom Line Spring Banquet. All of which were canceled. The only workaround was with the Spring Banquet, and now it is virtual. Each cancellation felt like it took away from what I had accomplished, and all I had sacrificed to get to this point. It just feels tough for me to open up a new chapter without being able to close out this one.

Bottom Line has given me my future. Bottom Line, specifically my counselor Lucy, is the reason I am attending UChicago as a Questbridge Scholar. I will spend the rest of my life in debt to this program and all the better for being a participant. Bottom Line has given me something to look forward to and something to keep pushing for -- my education.

I need some reassurance more than I need support. That I had not mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausted myself in an attempt to flourish in all the communities I was in just to be stripped down to a computer screen and no real interaction. I understand the concern for public safety, and I consider that a priority. That also does not mean that I do not feel defeated- as much of the world does.

I would like to urge everyone to try and embrace more perspectives. Embracing empathy is the rudimentary basis of being human, and now more than ever is when it can do some good. I am upset about all of my milestone moments being taken right in the moments of fruition. However, people are losing much worse than me, and I am grateful for what I have. It is time that we understand how these weeks of fear and nervousness are other people's years and normal lifestyle.