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'it is the right thing to do' - Page 218 Autobiographical Essay


randomzm 10 / 20  
Nov 30, 2008   #1
You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 218.

...a day devoted to learning the inner workings of the justice system, and the Duval County Prison was kind enough to allow the members of Youth Leadership Jacksonville a tour of the facility. An air of naivetï hung over the group as we made our way through the musty labyrinth of metal detectors, keycard elevators, and bulletproof glass checkpoints to our destination: a long, narrow hallway, where we were told to line on one side. From a door at the far end of the hall emerged approximately twenty inmates, each of them about our age, and they lined the opposite wall. We grudgingly wore business casual while they wore tattered, fluorescent-orange jumpsuits. The guard had each state the reason for his incarceration: armed robbery, battery, grand theft auto, and double homicide. The inmates' forlorn expressions of regret and shame mirrored the bleak, economy-white walls of the jail. "What separates you from them?" asked the guard.

It was upon those moments that the relationships of the fifty of us who constituted Youth Leadership Jacksonville Class XVIII were constructed. Together we had somberly toured prisons, homeless shelters, and neonatal care units. The experiences we shared stitched together a tight-knit group of people with a blanket of interests and approaches more diverse than I had ever known, and I graduated the program having learned something from each of them.

In the course of all of these experiences, two clear themes developed. One was the fragility of any situation: how easily, how inadvertently we could step off the precipice. From that humbling vulnerability, however, came a sense of possibility. Prior to YLJ, I had often reflected on why I am so committed to my education, and my answer was always, "because it is the right thing to do." These encounters, however, had pushed me to be more productive with my time, more sensitive to the issues and concerns of my community, and more acknowledging of the gray areas of morality. I finally realized who I was striving for, and I grew more clear-sighted in my goals and their significance.

The most rousing YLJ event for many of us was meeting Henri Landwirth, for whom the stakes were literally life and death. A holocaust survivor who had lost most of his family, Mr. Landwirth had come to the United States with only twenty dollars and the clothes on his back. He went on to become a successful hotelier, serve in the Korean War, and founded six different charities, one with which I had already been involved. To me, his story perfectly encapsulated what I took from the YLJ program: the potential for good is present in every situation, as long as one chooses to do the hard work required to bring it about.

To answer the guard's question of what separated me from those that I met at the prison, I believe that I have turned my challenges into opportunities. I have not taken the path of least resistance, but instead, confronted adversity with commitment and determination. I knew that this attitude would only create further possibilities down the road...

nevabressler - / 20  
Nov 30, 2008   #2
...where we were told to line up on one side.

The guard had each prisoner state the reason for his incarceration:...

good essay!
Neva
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,335 129  
Dec 1, 2008   #3
It was upon those moments that the relationships of the fifty of us who constituted Youth Leadership Jacksonville Class XVIII had been constructed.

Wow, you must have had some real inspiration for writing this. It's awesome! I like the way you really treated it just like a page out of a book. They are going to love it.

One thing to re-think: there is an understanding that is deeper than knowing that you are different from prisoners because of having "turned my challenges into opportunities. I have not taken the path of least resistance, but instead, confronted adversity with commitment and determination." The truth is, many of those inmates may have overcome great adversity and taken great pain upon themselves in order to protect loved ones in a cruel world. The justice system is not perfect, and neither are any of us. Convicts can be some of the most excellent, spiritual people.

If someone asked me what made me different from convicted prisoners, I wouldn't know WHAT to say!!! :)

Kevin
OP randomzm 10 / 20  
Dec 1, 2008   #4
It's funny, because I agree with you completely, Kevin. And the inmates were not violent or angry, but more disappointed in themselves and what they could have been. But I had to answer his question somehow, you know? The guard said "nothing" separated us from them, but I don't think that would make a good impression on the adcoms! haha

If the discrepancy is that obvious though, then I do need to rethink it. Thanks again Kevin!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,335 129  
Dec 1, 2008   #5
Well, I would not call it a discrepancy... but the reason I mentioned it is that what it made me think of was that you are judging the convicts. I know what you mean, about having needed to write something , though.

:)

I only told you my thoughts so that you would know what impression it made. I'm glad the guard thinks nothing separates us from them... that means he treats them with respect. For your essay, maybe you can fix it with a single sentence-- if you even think it needs to be fixed. You can fix it by adding another thought -- that circumstances sometimes hit people the wrong way, and that the inmates still have lots of potential.

Good luck!!


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