For my entire life, I’ve had a plan. From childhood to adolescence to adulthood, the pipeline of academia has enabled me to find security in the consistency of school. Throughout high school, I planned and prepared for college, and throughout college, I found comfort in the predictability of each next step. Of course, I had to learn to adapt to the constant unpredictability of life. COVID-19 definitely threw a wrench into any plan I could have devised… but the unpredictability of each variant started to feel expected after a while, and I’ve always been able to adapt. Regardless of the whirlwind world we live in, I’ve always known I would graduate from high school, to college, to law school.
I knew until I didn’t know. What if law school wasn’t right for me right now? Where did that leave me? What does it mean to build a meaningful career?
In response, I turned to Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. A past teacher recommended the program to me, and it seemed to be something new and exciting, that still aligned with my future goals. Plus, as a Political Science and Philosophy major, some business acumen on my resume definitely couldn’t hurt.
At first, I liked the predictability of it all. I was locked in for a spring class, summer field work, and a fall class. This predictability quickly disappeared as my newly acquired knowledge of social entrepreneurship completely changed my worldview. I had always believed that entering the world of politics, policy, and law would be the most fulfilling and impactful way to change perceived inequities. Miller Center disagreed; it stated that economic development may be the key to change systems of oppression, both domestically and internationally.
As I continued through my spring course, one sentiment stuck out to me most as we discussed whether charities are “bandaids” to large issues, while social entrepreneurship provides sustainable and long term solutions to building flourishing communities. I struggled with this. Isn’t social entrepreneurship a “bandaid” to the greater issue of exploitation within capitalism? Wouldn’t these issues be nonexistent without resource-sucking corporations and mass societies fueled by greed?
I continue to ponder this. I do not have the answers. In fact, it is draining to realize how deeply entrenched inequity is into all of our founding systems. How can I, as a graduating 21 year old, do something meaningful when the state of the world feels consistently hopeless. Each day, shootings, hypocrisy, poverty, and racism seem to suffocate the hope I had as a doe-eyed, ambitious child.
I wanted to “change the world,” but now, I’m more worried that the ways of the world may change me. How do I preserve my integrity, ambition, and genuine care in a market that prioritizes everything but?
While I continue to discern my life goals, I’ve realized that the best thing I can do is to try. If I remain stuck in the trap of hopelessness, I will be helping no one. Hope is the fuel of innovation: every step is a step forward. Maybe I cannot change these deeply rooted systems singlehandedly, but I definitely can contribute to local change. At the end of the day, I believe that real change is measured by how we know, love, and accept our neighbors. How can I serve my community? How can I learn about local needs and humbly contribute?
In the meantime, I have put my hope and effort into Miller Center. I write this from Baltimore, where I am partnered with Innovation Works, a venture accelerator that works with local entrepreneurs to help alleviate the racial wealth divide. It is with individuals, in communities, that change is made.
Additionally, I have taken on a role as Miller Center’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion intern. Throughout this role, I have presented to executives tangible ways to strengthen the DEI infrastructure, even recommending potential KPIs for the yearly business plan.
Miller Center has pushed me. It has pushed me to think about the world in a different way. It has pushed me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, to be okay with not knowing the answer. It has pushed me to accept that even the best intentioned organizations and people will have ethical dilemmas and flaws.
I am still unsure of where I am headed after graduating from Santa Clara University in 2023. Eventually, I’ll go to law school (maybe?), but I’m learning to be okay with not knowing. All I know is how humbled and grateful I feel for these opportunities to learn and contribute. For now, my only plan is to keep going.