College Essay

March 7, 2008
By Elizabeth Vanacore, Auburn, NY

Have you ever wondered how you would have reacted if you were alive during the time of slavery? My American history teacher posed this question to my class last year. Each of us tends to believe that if we were alive during the antebellum period we would have forcefully spoken out against slavery. My instructor wondered how we could think this way since we have not taken any action against similar issues today. He then introduced us to an issue that has transformed my life completely: the crisis in Darfur.

After class, I approached my teacher and asked how I could get involved. Soon after, I, along with my friend Kelly, formed a group dedicated to raising awareness and funds for Darfur. The Darfur Awareness Group that we created raised over $500 in three months. One of our activities was to speak before school events, informing the audiences about the approximately 400,000 Darfur civilians whose lives have been stolen from them, the millions of people who have sought safety in neighboring countries, and the countless number of women who have been raped in the villages of Darfur.

The Darfur Awareness Group arranged for Gabriel Bol Deng, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, to speak to the students of Auburn High School. Gabriel spoke regarding the civil war in Sudan. After Gabriel spoke almost every student asked to buy a t-shirt or wristband. We, the Darfur Awareness Group, gave all the money we had earned up to that point to Gabriel’s school fund. He is using the profits earned through these sales to help build a school in Sudan. I wrote a follow-up article in our school newspaper about Gabriel and the injustices he was forced to live with in Sudan, for which I received the Best News Article of the Year Award from the Newhouse Award winning Lake Ave Times. We have arranged for Gabriel to return this school year to speak about his journey over the summer back to his homeland in search of his family. I am extremely excited to have the chance to see and interact with him again.

This year I also organized a chapter of Amnesty International at our school. We plan to still focus on raising awareness of the Darfur conflict, but we would also like to begin informing our school, and the Cayuga County area, about other humanitarian issues as well.

The Darfur conflict has utterly altered my perspective on life and increased my faith in the power of an individual to make a difference in the world. I am no longer naive about world affairs, but I have not grown to be a cynic either. It’s sad to realize that these cruelties are happening in the world today, but I am invigorated with the chance to help right these wrongs. Martin Luther King once stated: “Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.” I plan on continuing raising awareness of and funds for humanitarian causes in the hopes of motivating others to become involved in alleviating the injustices that are happening right in front of us.

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