Through Connections, A Life Purpose Found

By: BRIAN SMITH

Connections changed Colleen’s life.

When she connected science and the real world, a career began calling.

When she connected with people outside of her Virginia neighborhood, it helped her discover herself.

And when she connected international travel with her own sense of personal identity, it led her to people and place she’d never have imagined.

As the daughter of two chemists, Colleen was always aware of how science played a role in her everyday life. But it wasn’t until she started exploring science outside the walls of a classroom and lab that she realized how it would shape her place in the world.

Each summer for three years during high school, Colleen participated in No Barriers Youth programs.

She still remembers seeing the impacts of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, which expanded the depth to which she could see science’s larger purpose.

Just as her parents connected science to the real world, No Barriers Youth opened her eyes to “knowing that this something that I could actually study and has a real world application.”

She wanted more.

On her Southwest and Leading the Way programs, the area’s geology called to her as “one of those weird people who had a rock collection, but never felt it was something I would end up studying.”

Later she was flipping through a geology textbook and was excited to see a picture of the San Juan River, which she’d rafted down. “When you get to make those connections, that’s really awesome,” she said.

Through her programs, and meeting a variety of people, Colleen said she had the feeling of breaking out of a bubble. The journeys opened up a new world of personal experiences and interactions that she wanted to guide her. By linking it all together, and creating a desire to gather personal experiences through travel, she said she found herself. She was now empowered to be who she wanted to be.

“Being around people who were like-minded (on No Barriers Youth trips) before I even went off to college gave me a better sense of the person I wanted to be and what options were out there as opposed to being who I happened to be surrounded by before,” she said. “It helped me realize I could do whatever I wanted to, not just do what I was put on the track for.”

Colleen is now a senior in the University of Virginia’s environmental sciences department. The major’s hands-on programming appeals to her in the same way her very first exposure to experiential learning with No Barriers Youth did.

“I love it – being able to put your hands on the rocks makes it so much easier to apply what you are learning in the classroom and force yourself to actually learn it and know it,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t have an interest in even taking an environmental science class if hadn’t have been for these (programs).”

Like Colleen, you can take the reins of your future and be the person you choose to be. Sign up with No Barriers Youth today!

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