We arrived in Nairobi days after the bombing of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Everyone was on high alert. Men with machine guns stood on every street corner. My dad rolled down his window as we were driving. Our driver immediately closed it and told us sternly that we were not allowed to open the windows as someone would reach into the car and grab our bags or cameras. I was eight years old, and just beginning to perceive the world. Resting my head on the closed window, I noticed that people appeared to walk everywhere. I turned to my mother and pointed out how environmentally conscious it was. My mother responded, “I think they’re walking because they can’t afford transportation.” It was this statement that opened my eyes to suffering and has shaped my approach to life. It began my desire to affect change and use my talents and opportunities to benefit others. Simple statements and seemingly insignificant moments like this one developed this passion throughout my life, as if this life picked me.
I like to think of myself as a storyteller by nature. So, as I learned more about the injustices in this world, I took note. I was driven to find a path where I could convert my passion for words and my desire to help into something that could change the world.
My community and education played an important role my life. In high school I joined the Public Speaking team where we read and discussed current events, studied legislation, and gained an understanding of how words can capture audiences. Once I entered undergrad, my favorite classes were always those related to politics and communication, even when the classes were required. I loved learning the theories of communication. As a junior in college, I transferred to UCLA, where I luckily found the Bruin Belles Service Association (BBSA), a philanthropic women’s leadership organization. I volunteered at several different organizations and events, such as Meals on Wheels, the local Veteran’s Hospital, animal shelters, Relay for Life, and the MDA Muscle Walk. My favorite event was Evening of Aloha, a tribute to Japanese-American World War II veterans. These men and women fought for freedom and the ideals of democracy, even during a time when their own country was denying them and their families certain human rights. It is due to these brave people that we won against injustice, and their stories touched my heart. My work with fellow Belles taught me that sometimes just a smiling face and the willingness to help out in any capacity is all it takes to make a difference.
From there I dedicated a year to volunteer work and became an AmeriCorps member. As a volunteer coordinator, part of my job was creating and implementing changes to the existing program. Thus, I learned effective ways to communicate new policies. Always the learner, when I completed my time with AmeriCorps, I went to graduate school to focus on how technology intersects with communications and grassroots support. My Master’s degree was an important step to the goal I set as an eight-year-old all those years ago in Kenya. Basic human rights are always worth fighting for, and effective communication is essential.
At a young age I was captured by the idea that there are problems, which we can address and hopefully solve. Every moment has steered me towards a path on which I can gain the knowledge and tools to make a difference. My passion for words, politics, and aiding others guides all that I do.
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Laura graduated from UCLA in June 2011 with a B.A. in Political Science, concentration in American Politics. She is currently working on her Master’s at Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture, and Technology program, focusing on Media and Politics.