Remember Jefferson Awards? I’ve mentioned that before, right? The Nobel Prize for Public Service? The impending second trip to Washington DC for the National Ceremonies?
All of that has happened.
All of that was grand.
I don’t really know where to begin. I thought I might have tweeted or facebooked (that’s a verb now?) or something to keep up on my documentation, but the trip was so phenomenal I kind of forgot the internet existed for a minute.
It was the 40th Anniversary of the Jefferson Awards, so it was a big event. I didn’t realize exactly how big until I was sitting in Constitution Hall and realized the Secret Service had arrived with Four Star General David H. Patraeus, director of the CIA. No, I am not kidding. This actually happened.
I can’t quite recall how many times I cried and laughed and dropped my jaw in those two days. You just wouldn’t believe the amazing people that were there and acknowledged for their good works in public service! And I am not just talking about General David H. Patraeus or Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, or Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontane or Race car driver Charlie Kimball, or actor-musician Harry Connick Jr. or Sax Player Branford Marsalis or violin virtuoso Jourdan Urbach, or music theater performer Jason Graae, or…my jaw hurts again. I’ve got to massage it.
Seriously though – there was this 13 year old kid who raised 5,000 pounds of food for his local food bank! This 11 year old boy who started an environmental group to keep his region beautiful! There was a young woman who gives her birthday away to the homeless every year among doing a thousand other things for those less fortunate! I just can’t believe how many selfless people surrounded me.
At the personal invitation of Sam Beard, the President and Co-Founder of Jefferson Awards, I spoke at Constitution Hall in front of 500 dignitaries, honorees, and invited guests regarding the impact of Jefferson Awards on Young Peoples’ lives at BA. I got a standing ovation. Yes. Yes I did. Apparently, my name was up in lights too at the introduction. People came up to me after to congratulate me and ask me all sorts of things. I even got stopped at the train station the next morning to take pictures with people! It was a lot of fun, and very eye opening. I am so honored to have been invited to speak and to have been received so well. I’m still flying from everything.
I even solidified my internship! I’ll talk about that more as the time approaches 🙂
This has been an intense year. There have been challenges, stresses, deaths in my family…but I think that it’s time to start living by the words of Helen Keller: “So much has been given to me. I have no time to ponder that which has been denied.”
Doth not she make a great point? I look back at the years I can remember and realize that I have no business being miserable or sad about the bad things, but that I have a lot of business using everything that has happened – good AND bad – as a reminder of why I must continue to do my absolute best in this life!
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS EVERYWHERE: I encourage you to DO YOUR BEST AND MORE in high school! I used to read these teen books and watch silly shows and wonder why I couldn’t have that ‘normal’ high school experience – boys and parties and driving and that sort of thing. But the truth is that I wouldn’t trade my extraordinary high school experience for anything else – even through the sleepless nights and endless days. Just hearing Harry Connick Jr. say I was eloquent made all of those five page papers and reading assignments worth it. My advice is to do your best and focus. Focus on your school work and your extra curricular activities and if nothing interests you -start something! These are FOUR YEARS (that’s a chunk of time and life, friends) that you’ve got all to yourself! Use them wisely and you’ll be feeling the benefits for the rest of your life. I’m already feeling them!! I am where I ought to be and I’m going where I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve got great people in my life. I am so grateful.
And I am so happy.
~Ariana M. Taveras