Doan Bui, La Quinta High School

(Westminster, CA) ‐ Living in a community mainly populated by Asians like myself, it was difficult for me to find variety and diversity in my world while I was growing up. I always thought that everyone lived similar lives and went through the same kind of troubles. However, in my sophomore year of high school, I became involved with BRIDGES ‐ a club that promotes breaking down the social barriers on campus and in the community by encouraging students to learn about diversity.

Joining BRIDGES opened my eyes up to how different everyone actually was and taught me to appreciate the many unique backgrounds other people come from. Not only has BRIDGES encouraged me to become a more ethical leader, it also gave me the opportunity to attend Bear Paw Leadership Camp, a week‐long program run by Orange County Human Relations. Through this experience, I realized how special everyone around me was by bonding with them and learning about their lives.

At Bear Paw Leadership Camp, I was introduced to a variety of ethnicities, ones that I rarely see around my Asian populated neighborhood. While in the tightly packed bus on the way to camp, I remember looking around at all the unfamiliar faces surrounding me. Being the person I am, always eager to know more about the people I meet, I anticipated discovering what the other campers around me were like. I expected normal, average kids just like me that were good students who had plans of going to college. However, in the first couple of days of camp, my expectations turned out to be an understatement.

While befriending an average‐looking Hispanic camper named Maria, I discovered that she came from a family who immigrated to the United States just so she and her brothers could get a higher education. Just like me, she was determined to go to college and succeed in life. Maria and many of the other campers proved that there is so much more to the people that surrounded me than I thought. I never knew how much I could learn from the cultures and experiences of the others in just one short week.

During that week, we talked about human relations issues in society and treating everyone equally. I have always been passionate about equality and diversity in our society because I truly believe that even though we all come from different backgrounds, culturally and financially, there is one aspect that makes us all alike ‐ we are all human, we live, breath, and show emotion. At camp, learning about the lives of the other campers fed my passion for equality by showing me that even though others may have gone through more fortunate or unfortunate experiences, we all are just trying to live our lives.

I brought back the lessons I learned from camp to share them with my school through the BRIDGES Program. BRIDGES has encouraged me to speak for what I believe in ‐ equal respect between people. That is why I am so involved in the BRIDGES program at my school; I am a part of the movement for equality and inclusiveness on my school campus by encouraging other students to respect the many differences of others, and by organizing campus‐wide events. For example, we have an event called Mix it Up, where students are invited to participate in games as one united student body.