By Sophie Wachtel
Greenport High School
2020 Anne MacKay Scholarship winner Sophie Wachtel
To me a true advocate is putting others and service before yourself. A devoted promoter of civil rights and justice recognizes inequality and strives to level the field for those who mat not be able to for themselves.
For the past two years I have been working on implementing an initiative I’ve named “Welcome Home”. This program’s purpose is to greet new students into our school and community and provide them with a friend or mentor. Their new confidant would be responsible for helping them navigate their new environment; locate classes, lockers, bathrooms, lunchroom, along with various other places that they would need to be able to talk to and possibly act as a liaison between the incoming student and school counselors if a need presents itself. I am hopeful that the program will continue to be successful because of all the positive feedback I’ve received from my teachers, principal, and the incoming students that have endured challenging journeys to be here.
This idea came to me one day when I noticed a new Spanish student trying to navigate the hallways of our school. He tried asking people where he should be, but the language barrier was so intense that people sort of shrugged their shoulders and apologetically moved on leaving this poor soul scrambling alone in the hallway. The terrible thing was that this was not the first time I’d witnessed this happening with other incoming foreign students. I finally summoned up the courage to approach my principal with this idea to offer a solution. Developing this organization has been amazing and fulfilling for me. Knowing that I can make a difference in this world, or in a person’s life is the greatest gift of all. I, myself, suffer from chronic anxiety, and I cannot properly express to you the feeling I get when I simply lead incoming students down the hallway through the lunch line and help them choose something to eat. There will never be a greater feeling than when they fold their hands together and thank me for helping them do something that I have taken for granted my whole entire life!
My role model when it comes to leadership has been my mom. She is a strong woman raising three children by herself and she is the strongest person I’ve ever known. One day, I told her how sad I was the day that I saw a new student struggling. She encouraged me to never give up for what I believe in and to go and make a difference. I respect her perseverance and her drive to deliver whatever needs to be done for her family, colleagues, and community. I get my stamina from her to push forward with my goals in life. This endeavor has been an undertaking that has felt impossible to achieve success many times over, but I will push forward to see that it thrives.
I am also a four-year member of NJROTC which emphasizes citizenship and leadership through extra-curricular activities and community service. My time spent in NJROTC has helped me develop a high degree of self-reliance, honor, individual discipline and leadership. I am also a six year Interact club participant, which is a rotary organization that places service above self. Interact is dedicated to promoting peace, fighting diseases, providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene, saving mothers and children, supporting education, and growing local economies. The rewards gained from my six years in this organization have driven me to help make this world a better place. I’ve experienced a greater understanding of local and global conflict and resolution.
I’ve also been honored to be a part of “Model UN” for the past four years. Model United Nations parallels the UN General Assembly and it’s other multilateral bodies where students enact ambassador roles and debate topics such as climate control, global health, and equality. I’ve learned so much about public speaking, speech writing, research skills and recognized more about cultures than I ever knew existed. I have found a voice so that I can be a stronger advocate to educate the world about acceptance, diversity and overall inclusion.
I have spent time working alongside occupational therapists and I am in awe of their depth of knowledge, and their ability to provide people with physical disabilities, behavioral problems, or emotional problems useful strategies to live productive lives. I cannot wait to be a part of this field of professionals as they tread forward making such big differences for those in need as well as their loved ones. The prospect of connecting with people who need a more organic and holistic approach to living in today’s society. I can say I would not only be professionally engaged in the practice, but I’d be personally invested as well. I suffer from anxiety, and I have worked for years with people who have educated me in the practice of mindfulness and meditation. How fortunate would I be if I were awarded the opportunity to return the favor to those who have been unable to restore their sense of safety and well emotional well-being?
I have been accepted to many schools that offer programs that will earn me a bachelors and master’s degree track, however the financial requirement is very intimidating. That is why I thank you again for your consideration as I embark upon my journey.