The Infinite Box of Legos

Growing up, I thought of language as an infinite box of Legos, captivating potential for boundless creation. Today, stories and storytelling remain as perfectly suited to my nature and interests as they were at ten months, when calling for “more books” was my constant refrain, or at ten years, when spinning epic tales was my favorite pastime. My abiding belief in the power of narrative to heal and educate informs my vision for future scholarship and service.

My own “story” grew within the context of my mother’s inspiring passion for literature. To me, “mom” will always signify a fellow traveler in the infinite realm of books. Barely able to walk herself, my mom read to me constantly, instilling in me a zeal for stories long before I could grasp the vital importance of language and reading in her life. In my earliest memories, I am nestled with my mom amongst heaps of library books, legs flopping off the couch, head resting in her lap, her voice transporting us across oceans of tales. In stories, we travelled unhindered by the reality of her physical disability. My identity as a reader and writer is rooted in our shared refuge in literature as an alternative form of mobility.

At seventeen, I am now the same age my mom was when a traumatic injury left her bedridden, disabled for life. As I excitedly anticipate the next stage of my life, I am acutely aware that she “attended” college from her childhood bed. Incapacitated by pain and unable to sit in her wheelchair for the duration of class, she listened to lectures, wrote papers, and took exams from home. My mom’s determination to fully engage in life despite suffering such devastating loss at a young age has indelibly influenced who I am and what I value. My kindness and empathy, passion for learning, deep personal motivation, and above all, my literary mind are strengths fostered by the force of her unwavering love. The personal and intellectual gifts my mom has given me are now mine to reciprocate in service to others.

I spent three summers teaching language and reading skills to preschool age children as a volunteer mentor with “Community Reading Buddies,” a program dedicated to early education. Last summer, I worked as an intern with the Aspire Education Project, a non-profit that promotes children’s literacy in low-income areas of Oakland and Alameda County. I cherish connecting with my youngest students; every word we sound out, rhyme scheme we discover, and counting game we play, counts. For children who grow up without the support they need, who go home to find not a single book, nor space to dream, early literacy programs can make a difference. I do not measure my students’ progress by the number of words they recognize or letters they correctly form, but by the sparkle in their eyes when asked to pick out a book to share. This summer, my heart leapt when Mia, an often-uninterested five year old, excitedly jumped up to choose the book that she wanted to read. Mia had taken an important step on a path towards finding joy and adventure in reading. I will continue to share the transformative possibilities of literature beyond the realm of academics by working for social justice and with low-income children to promote equality in education.

As an avid student of literature, history, and the arts, I hope to pursue my interest in narrative forms in a range of disciplines. The optimism and positive social change enabled by sharing our stories inspires me as a critical thinker, community member and friend. The narratives we find significant, both the long told and yet to be revealed, the personal and communal, bind us to ourselves and to others. I am eager for new opportunities to create meaningful connections between my academic pursuits in college and my passion for the human story.

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