My grandmother often recited a beautiful phrase that I apply to my life on a daily basis: "O Great Eagle, do not fear the opposing storm; it's only purpose is to serve to lift you higher." These powerful words continually help me conquer life's most difficult challenges.
My own greatest challenge was the successful integration of my native culture and religion into my daily life. As a high school freshman, the task seemed overwhelming. How could I, bombarded with a new culture, come to fully understand and appreciate my own roots? How could I thrive in my new environment, yet retain the precious native traditions my family held dear? Despite the enormity of these questions, I decided to resolve my conflict. My initial interest was strictly personal: I wanted to explore my history and culture culture for my own spiritual well-being. With help from friends, I started a religious youth group at the Shaker Hill Academy.
Our original mission was to educate others about our traditions, hoping to diminish their prejudice and misconceptions. To my surprise, I discovered that my own group (and community) suffered similar prejudices and ignorance toward others. Although we co-existed on campus, we were woefully ignorant of each other's core beliefs. This revelation startled me and changed the focus of my group. Our mission became a two-way communication of ideas, providing everyone with the opportunity to learn about the history, culture and religious beliefs of different groups. I helped to organize two religious conferences on campus and the first Buddhist Awareness Week at Shaker Hill Academy . These events were well-received and more successful than I ever imagined.
Part of my religious doctrine is a dedication to helping others. Following my success at school, I reached out to troubled youth in my community, particularly those...