From Scholar Kristen

All content is © Copyright 2012 McLean County Diversity Project

The McLean County Diversity Project has wholly allowed me to grow and has shaped the person that I am today. However, as a rookie, I had no clue what I was getting into.

I walked into the Chicago-Style Pizzeria for the annual Diversity Project pizza party as a shy 7 th  grader. I didn’t know where to sit or what to say. Let alone, I didn’t want to say anything because I was so afraid. I remember that we had to introduce ourselves and say our name, school, and what year we were in. Just this simple task made me anxious.

Our monthly interactions made me think critically, since we had to ask open-ended questions. As a rookie, I wanted to ask my question early to minimize the chances of someone already asking it because repeat questions are not allowed. However, I was soon pulled out of my comfort zone because all rookies are put in the position of asking the final question.

Six years later, I can confidently speak in front of people and ask open-ended questions. At interactions, I still get anxious, but it’s a different kind. I view asking the last question as a challenge to form a developed, analytical question when presented the opportunity.

These interactions have not only educated me, but have also allowed me to open myself to new ideas and appreciate the various beliefs in the world. Through the project, I was able to explore many religions, political parties, adversities, etc. This year, as we explore the diversity of perspective, it is our job to formulate our own opinions, but to also accept the differences that reside in us all. This is becoming even more important, shown through the current events today specifically relating to ISIS and the attacks on Paris.

I also learned that getting out of your comfort zone was a huge component of the project. I experienced this through my individual projects and the annual trips.

I participated as an instrumentalist in the plays "The Miracle Worker," "The Diary of Anne Frank," and "The Laramie Project" and through this, I overcame stage fright. Composing and transposing music was also a challenge, but ultimately extending me out of my comfort zone by developing my creative side.

My freshman year in high school presented a huge opportunity. I took a once in a lifetime chance. I traveled to Costa Rica with three other scholars to spread the importance of diversity with whomever we interacted with. In Spanish, we talked about the mission of the McLean County Diversity Project, why we are in it, and what the various interactions and trips mean to us. Along with this, we immersed ourselves in their culture by going to school, staying with a host family, and speaking Spanish. While I have traveled to a plethora of countries, Costa Rica was an eye-opening experience that taught me the importance of being grateful and giving back.

These past five years in the project have been an unforgettable experience and I hope to continue making memories in my sixth and final year. The project has made me a confident individual, has pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and has helped me grow as a leader.

In all my years of looking up to the seniors, I never thought that one day I’d be in this position. Being a senior scholar means to be a person that others can trust and to take the lead. As a senior scholar, I hope to assist and guide others on their journey as they also grow as an individual.

I long to provide and enrich them with an experience that is unforgettable, just as all the previous seniors have done for me.

- Kristin Koe, Senior Veteran Scholar
McLean County Diversity Project

McLean County Diversity Project   c/o Jeffrey A. Schwartz   16043 Dorado Road Bloomington, IL 61705