I was first drawn to working with GEN because I saw them strive towards creating change. Change within the community, culture, and government. Changing situations outside the control of families seemingly stuck in circumstances they can't get out of. When I first spoke to Katerina she told me, “We want to be bigger, you know the Navy Seal Foundation? We want to be that big!” That stuck with me—being on a mission to be big—but for the sake of helping others.
Within their mission to help others I saw myself as one of the girls they are helping. In fact, I was one of the girls they helped. Last summer, I called Katerina. I was devastated by my situation at school. I was behind on a lot of credits and my expected graduation date was pushed back by a few quarters. I couldn't afford to take classes in the summer and my financial aid didn’t extend towards summer courses. After going over my options and credits together Katerina said something that completely changed the trajectory of my education: “We will sponsor you”.
After putting down the phone I started crying, overcome by the reality of the situation: I was going to graduate on time! I didn't have to worry about paying off my tuition for one quarter. In that moment I felt a hope that for so long had been missing from my life.
Today, I have graduated from the University of Denver with my Bachelor's degree and, in the Fall, I will be continuing my education by receiving my Masters in Marketing. In all the years that I have known Katerina and her husband they have shown by example that education not only opens doors, but broadens your experiences.
If you had asked me four years ago if I was going to pursue anything above a BA, I would have replied, “of course not!” But, having seen first-hand the success that comes with hard work and perseverance, I now understand not only the value that an all-around education provides, but the importance of taking opportunities that come your way. I have the opportunity to continue my studies and with the skills I have learned over the years, I hope to use them towards helping other girls like myself at GEN.
Across the sea, in Siberia, the lives of these girls are much different, but their strength and resilience, in my opinion, are far more powerful than my own. Their motivation to succeed pushes them to overcome far bigger obstacles than I ever had to, and it humbles me and puts me in awe reading their stories and knowing that I am playing a small part in helping them get to where they are.
They are the generation of Change Makers that will one day go out into the world and extend to others the same kindness and generosity that was once extended to themselves. Being a Change Maker means being willing to do something even if you are scared or unsure of how to do it. It means seeing the opportunities and taking on the responsibility to make the world a better place.
#JoinGEN is a community of Change Makers who donate, or volunteer for an organization because they once made an impact on their life, or have been on the receiving end of the organization’s generous help. It's an honor to be a Change Maker and work for an organization that took a chance on my dreams. Today I am part of a team helping girls across the nation grow.