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Why You Should Challenge Yourself This Summer

by Jocelyn Johnson, on Jun 10, 2015 8:07:00 AM

I tried to shake out the feeling of pins and needles prickling up my leg from the sole of my foot. But, there was nowhere to move or stretch in our church van. I was sitting in the back seat, and three other teenagers were stuffed back with me. In total, we managed to fit, or rather squish, eleven teenagers into a van that only properly seated eight. As the van drove from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, mostly everyone was asleep. Except for me.

I gazed out the window as we slowly meandered up I-79 enjoying the silence. This was the first time it had been quiet all week. We were returning from Lott Carey, a week long community service trip held at Shaw University. I smiled as I looked out the window and thought about all the things I would tell my parents when I got home.

For the first, and only, time in my life, I had picked crops—collard greens to be exact. For three days during that week, we boarded buses and went to a local field where we went out in groups of two and three to harvest the crops for a local food pantry. We “gleaned” from 9 am to 12 pm. We sang songs and joked around while we worked. On the first day I saw a huge spider that looked like a tarantula, which made the task both terrifying and exciting. I examined my hands and saw a few specs of dirt still stuck underneath my fingernails. “Would my family even believe me?” I wondered.

Even now at the age of 25, I can still remember what I did during every summer throughout high school. In March, I’d sit with my mom and go over the summer’s itinerary. I remember asking her, “I just want to relax this year. Why can’t I stay home?” But, my mom was resolute. The summer was no time for “idleness,” she’d say. And, like mothers mostly always are, she was right. So the summer before my senior year of high school, I attended Lott Carey, in addition to working as a Counselor-in-Training at a summer camp. I actually wrote my college application essay on my experience at Lott Carey of “gleaning”—which means both to gather crops, and to learn, discover, or find out, usually little by little or slowly.

Why am I telling you this story? Because, I believe that summer is the time to challenge yourself in a way that you don’t usually do during the year. And, it’s not just about building your resume or impressing college admission officers. Whether it’s volunteering or community service, an outdoor adventure program, or babysitting younger siblings or relatives, use your break from school to do something that will enable you to learn something, change, or grow as a person. Challenge yourself to try new things and activities no matter where you spend the summer. Use the summer to explore what really matters to you and make a difference in the world.

If you do these two things, I guarantee that at the end of your summer vacation, you will have grown as a person, and have Defining Moment stories of your own that you can share with your family and friends, and explore in your college admission essays.

Topics:college admission