My "Moment" This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 16, 2008
In movies and books, people often describe a defining moment when they figure out who they are. However, I never thought it actually happened in real life. I never expected to have a “moment” of my own. When it arrived, mine was much more powerful than I could have ever imagined.

During the spring of my junior year, my class watched a documentary called “The Invisible Children.” It was about three college students who take a trip to Africa and document their experience. At first the film was slightly humorous; the filmmakers clearly had no idea what they were getting into. One said at the beginning, “I don’t really know what to expect. I hope we don’t, like, die or something.”

However, once the group arrived in northern Uganda, the mood changed. They learned what the consequences of a 23-year war had been for thousands of children. Many had lost family and friends, some had younger siblings who were captured by the rebel army and recruited as child soldiers, others had no home and slept in alleys too cramped for us to comprehend. There was footage of night commuters and child soldiers, many younger than me.

Before long, I was sobbing. I just kept thinking, What have I been doing with my life? I couldn’t believe these things were happening, yet at the same time I knew they were. I just hadn’t been paying attention. For 17 years I was blissfully unaware in my little bubble of Salt Lake City, Utah.

When the movie ended, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Later at swim practice it was hard to understand how my teammates could laugh and joke after what we had just seen. When I got home that night, I tried to tell my parents about the film, but I couldn’t get the words out. I hiccupped and choked my way through a description and what I thought I had to do now. I was able to convince my parents to donate $300 to The Invisible Children (I am still repaying them $20 a month). I went into my room and drew a big A on my white board with a circle around it, the following day I went looking for a job to save money for a trip to Africa.

For the next week, I was not myself. Every bite of food I took I thought of Grace, the 15-year-old who was eating for two. When I went to bed, I pictured Sunday, the 14-year-old boy sleeping on a straw mat on the ground in a displacement camp. My whole perspective shifted.

Since that day, I haven’t been able to picture my future in a way that doesn’t involve going to Africa and doing what I can to help. Ultimately, this is why I decided to major in engineering. When I found out about the Engineering Without Borders program, it was as if the clouds in my head cleared and sunshine burst through. After the initial shock of discovering what I wanted to do with my life, I could see myself accomplishing everything that had now become so important to me. I could not only go to Africa, but I could use my education and skills to make a difference.

With an engineering degree, my potential for change will be limitless. I will build wells, schools, and houses. I will design irrigation systems and orphanages. Engineering is tough, but I know – in what Yeats called “my deep heart’s core” – that this is what I’m supposed to do with my life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 34 comments. Post your own now!

baconzzz said...
Nov. 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm
The introduction of the essay is very well written and beautiful. The rest, though, seems slightly cliche. Africa is a topic that so many people choose to talk about to show their "generosity" and "kindness" that it's become almost exploitative. Promising to help starving children in Africa? Beautiful, bless your soul. What about all the other starving children in the world? America? China? [insert country]? I have nothing against you. Your cause is noble. It just irks me... (more »)
jenn22 said...
Sept. 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm
this is an amazing essay. it was short and i was in tears by the end, seriously awesome job
serqio said...
Sept. 20, 2012 at 12:26 am
really good essay. very good job in building up to your "moment." good to hear that you were inspired and know that you will influence others more with the good you have to offer.
NewsJunkie said...
May 11, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Really like your essay. Can really relate to wanting to help others.
tonia17 said...
Apr. 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm
I like that in you. keep dreaming the big dreams and you'll get there eventually. i see u have a heart so keep writing. dnt mind what others say. great essay!
gn24 said...
May 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm
All my life I've dreamed about going to Africa and helping the children and wildlife. I can relate so much to your essay. Remarkable job!
nastia said...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 11:20 am
I don't believe you, sorry
camatin9 replied...
Sept. 1, 2011 at 2:38 pm
i dont believe her either
Deej replied...
Aug. 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm
Agreed- neither do I, man.
Rachel_Chace This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 29, 2010 at 6:22 pm
congragulations. this is absolutley remarkable. i'm going to nicoragua in feb to build a school for the children there. i'm part of a club at my school with an organization called buildOn , we volunteer within the community. i'm aboslutely blooming in greatfulness that i got chosen to go, i know it will be a life chnaging experience for me.
Ehardt27 said...
Oct. 29, 2010 at 5:56 pm
I read a book not too long ago about the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and it focused mostly on a kid named Sunday.  Reading that name in your essay (same kid maybe?) brought back a lot of memories and it's awesome that you are going to do something about it. And you're essay is really good :)
doll18 said...
Oct. 26, 2010 at 6:57 am
I think that this post is quite excellent and compelling. I would like my application essay to be similar to this one.
pookah22 said...
Sept. 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm
Really good essay!
Thrush said...
Aug. 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm
Awesome. Very beautiful.
forgottenpenname This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 11, 2010 at 7:44 pm

This was beautiful, and I thank you for being the person willing to step out and make a difference. :)

Every year, my school focuses on doing a few major humanitarian projects, and one of ours has been to fund the building of an orphanage in Africa. We got to see some pictures of it this year... everyone was crying afterward, we were so touched seeing how much just a few dollars from each of us has helped all of the children now living there.

Good luck and I hope you get to... (more »)

anarchist said...
Apr. 16, 2010 at 12:38 am
I'd just like to say how lucky you are that you've really found direction and purpose in your life. Not many people discover that at such a young age or discover it at all. Hope you do well! :)
serqio replied...
Sept. 20, 2012 at 12:27 am
what do you mean some people dont "discover it all"
emilyanne said...
Apr. 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Helping Africa has been a supressed passion of mine for as long as i can remember. thank you for reminding me what really matters: helping others!

I plan to persue fimmaking, and eventually go to Africa. 

What an amazing article!

Kajersej said...
Apr. 6, 2010 at 4:07 am
Good Job, Mate. :)
ColumbusFlame95 said...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm
this year, my eighth grade religion class watched this movie too. i too felt the same way and was astounded at the powerful message that they were sending. our class has since donated money to a charity that builds clean water wells just like what you were talking about. i wish you the best of luck in reaching your goals.
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