In November of last year, I began planning a relay that spanned 1,300 miles and several states with the purpose of raising money for anti-genocide initiatives and promoting awareness of current and past genocides. Since then, I have committed hours upon hours to realizing the possibility of this project and have found myself constantly facing an upward climb.
The relay started as a joke among some of my friends. We thought it might be fun to run across the United States. Without much effort, the passing comment turned into a conceivable notion. We started thinking about the possibilities, the problems we would face, and the inevitable amazing sense of accomplishment we would feel upon completion. We choice genocide as the relay’s cause because we shared similar beliefs.
Like the seven other runners, I want to promote genocide awareness to people in the U.S. because I believe genocide is inherently wrong. The U.S., as it is now, has been built on pillars of anti-racism, anti-prejudice, and equality for all. Genocide completely contradicts these ideas. I believe, as Americans, we should be concerned whenever people are being killed simply because of who they are. This, I wholeheartedly believe.
I have met numerous obstacles during the planning process. With our goal of $100,000, we needed to find a way to receive tax-exempt donations. Although the IRS said achieving a 501(c)(3) status ourselves was impossible, we found support from other non-profit organizations that had similar causes as us such as STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition and the Genocide Intervention Network. We also found out only a couple of weeks ago that one of our runners could not participate in the relay. Thanks to the willingness of people to help us, I found a replacement within 24 hours.
Planning this relay has opened my eyes to my own beliefs and to the kindness of others. Social analyzers have labeled my generation, Generation Y, as apathetic, but projects like this run and the ease with which progress has come has made me think otherwise. My generation is not apathetic. My friends have supported me from day one and continue to do so despite the obstacles. Regular high school teenagers can do amazing things when they realize their own potential.
So, in addition to raising awareness of genocide, I want the relay to show that, even as a high school student, I have the potential to really effect change in the world. I hope this relay may empower students like me with that realization and even with a desire to take a risk and make a difference.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.