The prompt is to evaluate at significant experience and its impact. Please have away at my essay!
On the concluding night of the project I was in dire panic. The five months of meetings, presentations to local businesses, trips to the community food bank, and all the hours spent on the miscellaneous unanticipated problems that come with any ambitious project seemed like a waste. On the computer screen in front of me, an email from our account manager announced that we were nearly $35,000 short of our goal. A feeling of failure engulfed me.
During the fall semester of my senior year, I and twelve other high school seniors orchestrated the 2010 Fill the Dome Youth-Led Food Drive (FTD). FTD responds to the state's food shelters' struggle to provide assistance to our underserved poor by calling upon students, businesses, and other members of the community to donate food and money. Our effort coordinated the work of 60 schools and hundreds of businesses in and around the Fargo-Moorhead area. The goal: to raise 110 tons of food and $110,000.
I'm used to reaching my goals. As I focused on the email's figure, $75,000, I wondered what mistakes led to what I could only under stand as a failure. My advisor Luke saw lines of worry crease my face. "Jen, it's not about the number," he said. Taking this to heart, I climbed to the top of the dimly lit stadium. Gazing at the thousands of tomato soup cans, peanut butter jars, and bags of rice that decorated the floor below, my shoulders relaxed and I smiled as I recalled the past months.
My first contact with FTD came when I reported on the project for my school newspaper two years ago. Interviews I conducted with individuals at the YWCA and other shelters heightened my awareness of the unfortunate and complex situations which lead to poverty. I was awed by the mission and impact of FTD. For the past three years, a group of high school students coalesced with the purpose of mobilizing the community to address the incredibly pervasive need across the state. Predicated on the feeling that individuals have the ability to make an impact, I thrived off of the energy of FTD.
Throughout the project, the strengths of our group manifested; I reveled in the opportunity to work with a group of such driven and motivated students. During weekly meetings, my ability to plan ahead and think creatively served as my most valuable contribution. Weekends were spent drafting business contracts in the back corners of various coffee shops and discussing outreach strategies with food bank representatives and non-profit chairs. The baristas began to anticipate my order of the "All-nighter," a five-shot espresso I guzzled to stay awake in order to complete dozens of emails and homework. As I presented the project to energetic first graders, radio talk show hosts, and bank presidents, I was overwhelmed by the excitement that surrounded the project. While I felt the challenges of earning the respect of businessmen and navigating the politics of competing businesses wishing to sponsor FTD, I discovered my own ability to inform and motivate a crowd. With a positive attitude in what we aimed to achieve, I learned that any lack of knowledge and experience can be counterbalanced by passion and conviction.
It was not long before I witnessed that energy proliferate; my phone inbox flooded with messages from eager student council members inquiring how they could help. After hosting weekend turkey trots and dodge-ball tournaments, my car slowly filled with cardboard boxes and canned foods. People questioned my hygiene when I wore the project's bright yellow t-shirt to school for the fifth day in a row. My peer's concerns were assuaged when they saw the literally hundreds of yellow t-shirts and FTD buttons in my car; soon enough, a sea of yellow-clad students flooded the cafeteria and hallways. I found a movement born not by commanding others what to do, but by providing the knowledge and resources to make it easy for them to follow.
The next morning, the FargoDome's eighty-thousand square foot floor was a bustle of activity. Hundreds of volunteers streamed into the arena to package and load the food for distribution. A unique spectacle unfolded as students worked with their high school rivals and kindergarteners worked alongside prominent businessmen. It was a beautiful moment; a cause obliterated the lines of age and status. When we finished, I took the podium for our final press conference. My eyes welled up as I focused on the hundreds of people sitting in the stadium seats. Trying to picture the faces of the one in eleven Cass-Clay residents who seek food assistance, I thought of a woman I once met at the YWCA during the summer I volunteered there. Struggling to balance the demands of food and bills, the simple gift of a food basket would allow her to focus her attention on the other needs of her four young children. In that moment of clarity, I felt embarrassed that falling short of a goal could cloud the tremendous joy our delivery trucks would bring to people who need it most. We motivated an entire community to feed an entire state. The mission of the project was not to reach a certain monetary sum: the mission of this project was to educate the community, inspire youth, and most importantly, feed hungry people. I smiled. We accomplished that.