As a Political Science Major and Peace and Justice Studies Minor at the University of San Diego, I have spent the past four years exploring ways to practice democratic citizenship and ways to develop meaningful opportunities to promote effective social change. My internship at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice has allowed me to merge what I have learned in these two areas of study and turn my passion into action.
Last spring, I had the privilege of sailing around the world on a study abroad program and visiting 9 different countries, the majority of which are considered the Global South. It didn’t take long before I realized that the happiest, most hopeful people were the ones living in extreme poverty with very little means to change their lifestyle. These little villages that I visited and the people I met taught me that wealth doesn’t create happiness; rather, strong communities do. People work together in communities because they realize they are stronger that way. This cooperation builds resilience and this resilience builds peace. It brought me so much joy to see how the willingness to help and support each other makes such a positive impact on a community and its ability to grow. Studying abroad in these places has taught me that strong human connections can, literally, make a world of a difference.
It wasn’t enough for me to just know and understand that tightly knit communities are the happiest. I wanted to take that information and make it a reality here in San Diego, which is why I helped co-create the Social Fabric Initiative. As someone who loves watching youth succeed, I am most excited to see how enthusiastic high school students channel their fire for social change and produce meaningful results. I believe giving youth in our community the chance and flexibility to develop their own projects is the platform they need to be heard and make a lasting difference. It is so important for youth to see that working together as a community is better than working against each other as individuals. The Social Fabric Initiative is a great place to start.