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An IMPACTful Summer

Read this story in West University Buzz

Similar to most teenagers’ summers, mine began with an abnormal amount of sleep, binge-watching Netflix, and no clear goals in mind. How my summer ended, however, is different than most.

After a long plane ride to Baltimore, Maryland, I arrived at the BWI airport and was greeted by staff members of the BBYO (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization) program that I was attending, Impact:DC.

This program’s goal was to teach Jewish youth from around the world about issues in the Washington, DC community and ways to combat them. After learning about the issues, we then learned how we could apply our newfound knowledge to our local communities. The largest problem addressed at the program was the prevalence of poverty stricken families and the high rate of homelessness in our local communities. To teach us about these issues, the participants were brought to the National Coalition for the Homeless where we listened to the stories of the local homeless community in Washington, DC.

While their stories were interesting and eye-opening, that was not the most impactful part of my trip. The part of the trip that truly affected me the most was going to McPherson Square in Washington and interacting with the homeless there. Along with giving food and clothing to the homeless, my new friends and I were able to sit down and talk to the local homeless population. We learned not only about the struggles of being homeless, but how we, the homeless and the Impact:DC participants, are only separated by means of income and luck.

After chatting with a former homeless man in McPherson Square and telling him that I wanted to major in the field of communications in college, he told me that if I become a reporter or writer, I need to talk about and advocate for the homeless. My time spent at McPherson Square has changed my entire perspective on the homeless population of the United States for the better. Now that I am back in Houston, I can’t wait to help volunteer locally just like we did in DC.

When we were not learning about local issues and visiting museums, the participants of Impact:DC split up into groups consisting of participants who all lived in the same state. Once grouped together the groups talked, researched, and planned for their time to lobby to their local Congressman in DC. As a Texan, my group lobbied for immigration reform with the famous Ted Cruz. After countless nights of work, we met Senator Cruz and we were able to share our ideas with his aid. Although we wish that were able to lobby directly to the senator and not his aid, we learned about the struggle that lobbyists go through every day as well as how the lobbying system works.

The Impact:DC program was the most influential program that I have ever attended.

After spending time on the program, I have had my personal beliefs challenged and changed for what I would consider the better. My summer was not the same as most teenagers’ but I would not trade it for anything else.

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