On Campus: Falling in Love with Activism
I'm entering my senior year at Towson University with a Health Science major. As with many other soon-to-be graduates, I really have no idea what I want to do with my life. Of course I have some general ideas, some goals and aspirations, but if someone were to ask me where I see myself in five years or even two years, I'd have to admit that I have no clue. My life plans change almost every week.
One thing has been a constant interest in my life, although I didn't realize it until recently: volunteering. Specifically, working on causes related to children and young people.
It wasn’t until senior year of high school that I was introduced to the cause that made me fall in love with activism. Roadies from the organization Invisible Children came to my school and showed the movie they created about their work. I was so moved that I instantly knew I wanted to get involved.
The feeling I got when I realized that I could actually do something to make a difference in a person’s life—and by extension the world—was indescribable. It was empowering, and set my mind racing with ideas. Remembering that feeling is what motivates me to keep going when other obligations get in the way. I admit it can get hard to help others when you're focused on yourself, as most of us heading out into adulthood are.
An example comes to mind: when I got to college; I didn’t do anything activism-related until halfway through my sophomore year. Not because I didn’t want to but because no opportunities had come my way, and I wasn’t looking because I didn’t realize how much I enjoy activism and volunteering.
A couple of weeks into the spring semester of my sophomore year, I met three girls who had just returned from a trip in Honduras with Students Helping Honduras and were trying to start a chapter at Towson. Listening to their stories triggered that feeling in me. Once again my heart was pounding and my mind racing. I felt alive.
Together, we started a Students Helping Honduras chapter, and we spent the rest of the semester raising money for the village my classmates had gone to. Most of the SHH members hadn't even been to Honduras yet, and already we were relentlessly working to raise money for what felt like friends of ours.
The following January, I went to Honduras. As moved as I had been by the stories I'd heard, nothing compared to actually being there. To say it was gratifying to meet the people and lend my own hands to help them, well, that's an understatement.
Coming back from that trip motivated me and the 29 other students from Towson so much that we gave ourselves a goal to raise $40,000 during spring semester —a daunting amount. We held bagel sales, bake sales, coffee sales, individual fundraising, tabled at every event on campus that we could and even had a benefit concert with local bands.
We did raise the $40,000 and then some, leaving other schools raising money in the dust!
I'm proud of that, but I'm equally proud of the quieter victories, the ones inside me. When I look back on college, this work and the connections to my fellow activists will be one of my strongest impressions, I know it.
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm sure I'll have periods in my life where I lose the thread of activism, but I hope it won't be for long. This work will always be in my heart; it has changed me in the best way. It made me feel at once individually capable and active--not just a passive player in the world—and also a part of something much, much bigger than me. And part of an interconnected world. That's a thread I won't lose.
Watch more about Students Helping Honduras:
Rachel Kotzker is a senior at Towson University in Maryland studying Health Science. She is an active member of the Towson University chapter of Students Helping Honduras (the number one chapter in the nation!) and volunteers with other organizations like Reverb and Headcount.