By Lauren Galley
A psychology professor whom I very much admire told me something recently that I will never forget. He said, “Your education is the one thing that no one will ever be able to take away from you. They can take you, your belongings, and your pride, but they will never take your education.” These words really stuck with me. I have always valued my education and the fact that I am able to increase my knowledge in any field I choose. An education is something that truly stays with a person forever, and it represents an accomplishment in which a person can take pride. But this is not always the case. Too often I hear young people complain that they “have” to go to school. I even know several people my age who have dropped out or could not care less about getting an education of any kind. This makes me sad because there are thousands of young people in this world, especially girls, who would do anything to receive the privilege and/or right to attend school.
“Girl Rising” is a groundbreaking feature film about the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to transform societies. I was lucky enough to screen a chapter of this film for a group of girls I mentor on a regular basis at Cy-Hope. This film highlights the lives of young girls in other countries, such as India, who do not have the right to an education. They are forced to become slaves for another family while their brothers attend school each day and are the chosen ones to receive an education. Watching and hearing the girls speak about their lives and how they wish more than anything that they could get an education had a huge effect on the girls at Cy-Hope. I smiled to myself as I watched them staring wide-eyed at the screen in silence. After the chapter was over, they voiced that they had never thought of school as a privilege, but now they viewed it differently. Sure, you don’t always wake up excited about going to school, but it is SO worth it in the long run, and MUCH better than the alternative exposed in “Girl Rising.”
As teens, we take the right to receive an education for granted in the United States. We don’t often think of girls in starving countries, or little children working twelve hour shifts for little to no pay, because we don’t see or hear about them in our daily lives. Out of sight, out of mind. Maybe we personally can’t do anything to help these children, but what we can do is appreciate what we have today. Sure, it’s easy to complain about finals week or having to write that dreaded 10-page paper. But how about we change our mindsets and look on the positive side of things? An education is a beautiful thing that many people strive for, so let’s be proud of what we have, work really hard in school, and get the best grades possible. You never want to look back in life and say, “I wish I would have tried harder,” or “I wish I would have been more positive.” All great things come with sacrifice, and education is no exception, but the end is well worth the sacrifice.
Not only is receiving an education an amazing thing, but the opportunities that are available to us as Americans is breathtaking. You can get a degree in practically ANYTHING! You can study abroad. You can study from home, or at night, or during the day. Think about it this way: People come to America from all over the world for better opportunities—but you are already here! Take advantage of this and seize those opportunities before someone else does, or before it’s too late. I always tell girls to find their “sparkle,” otherwise known as their passion. Who knows, one day you just might take that passion and turn that into a career. Many times I’ve heard people say, “If you can get paid doing what you love, then you will have achieved the ultimate happiness.” This is a great goal to set for yourself, and chances are, you will find that perfect college or trade school that will enable you to make your dreams a reality. Don’t settle for mediocre or second best.
I believe having a mentor is extremely important, especially in our teen years. My mentors have opened my eyes and educated me in ways money simply can’t buy. They have taught me life lessons, motivation, and courage. But most of all they have taught me the power of an education. How do they know this? They received an education and know firsthand the influence learning and growing has had on them. In turn they feel the urgency to share this value with me. My message to teen girls is this: Open your eyes, listen, learn everything you can, and as you achieve success, don’t forget to pass along the importance of an education to our next generation!