Personal Essay

By Emma Martinez
Shelter Island High School

Knowing that our world is infested with so much hate and hypocrisy, it is so important for the good-hearted people out there, such as the ones worthy of this scholarship, to stand for what is right and to do everything in their power to strive towards an inclusive and equal society. I was born to a Slovak mother and a Mexican father, and grew up in a very culturally diverse household. My two babysitters were Korean and Swedish, and most of my family’s friends were people of color and European immigrants.

Growing up, my favorite thing to do was to collect as much information about everyone’s culture in order to truly educate myself about their home countries. That way, I would be ready when the day came to visit them. I was in love with the diversity I was surrounded with, expanding my knowledge constantly with other languages. I was never aware of what racism was until I was old enough to bike around my town alone, and I finally came face-to-face with some old, white, conservative men in my town who told me to go back to my country. The more and more comments I heard, the more I became determined to help the people who are different like me. I could never understand why people wanted to attack people of different skin colors, sexualities, or religions. In 8th grade, it hit me. This was my purpose. This is what I was meant to do.

Starting that year, I began to participate in different clubs, causes, and organizations, all while educating myself, my family, and my friends on certain topics. I am a part of the Unity Club, which is a club at my school that works to create a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ students at school. This year, I also ran for Student Council Secretary, and fortunately, I got the position. I’ve been working every week with the rest of my Council to edit or change the dress code so that the young girls who are being wrongfully and inappropriately called out for what they’re wearing feel safer and less targeted.

As the secretary, I decide when each meeting is and make sure that I organize open meetings once a month, at which any high school student can voice their opinion and offer up their suggestions to us. In June of 2020, I also helped organize a Black Lives Matter protest in my town, which certainly riled up some of the traditional community members, but had an enormous turn out filled with people who were willing to peacefully fight for a good cause.

While volunteering for clubs and organizations such as these, I try to spread my positivity to everyone I meet. Luckily, there isn’t any intense bullying in my school since it’s so small, but whenever I hear something that doesn’t sound right, I’m always sure to speak up and be an ally to the person targeted and to help educate the person who has made the inappropriate comment.

Being an activist and a leader is something I’m incredibly passionate about, and what I want most in the entire world is the privilege of finally having world peace, equality, and love for everyone. I promise to my family, friends, and to the college I am going to that I will never stop fighting for what is right, and will always use my voice to help change the world.