In 2016, I was one of the recipients of the Akin Hall Association's scholarship award. Students participating in the program write an essay of about 500 words, fill out a form that lists community involvement and extracurricular activities, then interview with the Board members. The Akin Hall Association awarded a total of $51,000 to students from Pawling High School in my year and continues to recognize many other high-achieving students in their academic endeavors.
The Akin Hall Association's scholarship program also provided me with an opportunity to recognize the meaning of education beyond the classroom, to further connect with the community, and to appreciate the value of such a community. In my year, applicants wrote an essay reflecting on how community involvement influenced who we are as individuals. Through the essay, I was invited to think about serving others is not just enrichment, but is in fact an essential component of education. I found myself engaged with this prompt. I realized that as a student, I learned from textbooks, but as an individual, I learn from experiencing the world with others.
Community service is important to life in the past, present, and future. I found proof of the continued influence of community when I connected with one of the nieces of the Board during my first year at Wellesley. As a first year student starting the next chapter of my life, I was nervous and without many connections in the Boston area. However, through the Akin Hall Association, Laura Tanner reached out to me with a warm welcome, giving me a link to home. I am grateful that the Association helped provide me with her as a resource. This again made me reflect on the importance of appreciating one's community because even two hundred miles away, it is always there for me.
To this day, I continue to reflect on the discussion I had with the Board members. At Wellesley, I strive to apply the principles of the "promotion of benevolence" and "all kindred cultivation and knowledge." Furthermore, in college, community continues to grow, and as it continues to grow, so does the responsibility to give back. Through my participation in cultural organizations and volunteer exchanges, I strive to uphold and to represent these values of the Akin Hall Association and the Pawling community.
For students selected to apply to the Akin Hall Association, I encourage them to think about the true meaning of community behind this award. Community impacts all of us. Our interactions and experiences with it shape us into who are today and will continue to shape us in the future.