On Wednesday, my grade and I went into the nearest city to an elementary school. We spent the morning singing songs, reading about the Statue of Liberty, and talking about fun fall activities with the first-graders there.

Walking through the school really opened my eyes. The walls were bright orange with pictures of the cutest little kids all over them. Their smiles were toothless, filled with joy, and adorable.

When we entered the classroom, the first-graders were sitting down at their rusted desks in small metal chairs with homemade seat cushions. Their desk name tags were falling apart and the one teacher was scrambling around, making sure the needs of her 20+ students were met. She was amazing and was doing her very best to make all of them feel loved.

After drinking a full coffee on the bus ride there, I was looking for the bathrooms almost immediately after arriving. When I pushed open the door, I stood there, almost unable to move. The tiles on the floor were (very) bright blue, cracked, and covered in water. The stalls were rusting, just like the desks, and only one of the three had a functioning door that stayed shut.

When we entered the music room, the carpet was covered in hair, dust bunnies, and fabric. When the teacher asked us to sit down, I watched the six and seven-year-olds quickly collapse to the floor, rolling around, while my classmates and I looked around at each other, hesitant.

I felt guilty. I felt guilty looking into my first-grade buddy's somber, blue eyes as she told me that she eats spoonfuls of butter when there's no food in the house, knowing that I complain about being hungry after one night that I missed dinner. I felt guilty for having a supportive family and two parents so in love with each other when she told me that she lives with her mom and grandmother and doesn't know where her dad is. I felt guilty that I was going to head back to boarding school on the ocean and leave the students behind. When my little buddy hugged me goodbye, multiple times, and wouldn't let go, my heart broke for her and the rest of the kids.

The bus ride home was quiet.

How are there kids out living like that while we have the pleasure to attend this incredible school?

 The guilt soon turned into gratitude. The opportunities that I have worked for and the ones that my parents have provided me shouldn't make me feel bad. They shouldn't upset me or make me wish I didn't have them - they should inspire me. These opportunities should inspire me to be the best person I can be. They should inspire me to study more and to work harder so I can give back to the community. I wish everyone was given the opportunity to succeed, but nothing good is achieved by wishing away mine.

I am so blessed to be where I am now. Visiting the elementary school made me realize that I cannot let my opportunities go to waste - they will help me make an impact on the world, and hopefully the lives of those sweet little first-graders.

stay on the sunny side,


  1. This brings me to tears! I have no doubt you made an impact on those kids and you will on the world in the future. You’re an incredibly kind and gifted soul. I love you!

  2. You certainly made a huge impact on me now, and when you were one of my students!!! I miss you and I know you are going to be one of the people who will change this world for the better!!! xoxo Karen Hurley