It was a result of my experiences growing up that I came to rely so heavily on my instinct, not only on the gridiron, but in all areas of my life. Even after plucking bones from chickens all day and after the supplemental food stamps, my single-parent mother still struggled to feed her six children. By the end of the month there were often only crackers left on the shelf, which we ate as our breakfast cereal. Not even food was certain, so how could a child learn to trust anything? As each of my siblings dropped out of school and became involved in crime and drugs, I forged my own path. I instinctively understood that it was through education and hard work that I would find my golden ticket out of the social abyss that held my family captive. I read ravenously and exploited every opportunity to enrich my education;, and while I began working at fourteen to pay for school fees, glasses and other bills; I never lost sight of my goal. It was my instinct, which pushes me to challenge my intellectual limits that compelled me to apply for a national scholarship in high school to study for one year in Germany. Opening the award letter, I knew that I would be a different person a year later. My immersion in a foreign culture placed me at a new vantage point, forcing me to view the world and myself-in a new light The new perspective that I gained through my studies in Germany whetted my appetite for more opportunities to enrich my education with foreign experiences.
Coming back from Germany, I felt a smoldering conviction inside me that nothing was impossible-if pursued relentlessly enough. With this in mind, I began my college search. After visiting campus, I instinctively knew that I would attend Grinnell College, where the challenging academics and diverse student body contributed to the intellectual rigor that I desired as a student. Moreover, cognizant of my need to come to terms with my sexuality, I had a gut feeling that Grinnell could offer the support that I needed as a gay student.
Despite twelve scholarships and great financial aid, I still needed to earn several thousand dollars to attend Grinnell. Working sixty hours a week., I assisted developmentally disabled residents with bathing, dressing and eating. I now realize that what I had only intended to be a summer job has evolved into a passion for human rights. I spent much of that summer riding stick horses along the busy main street with my friend Ron bounding after me shouting, "Gidday up, boy!" I realized that, although both Ron and I are members of marginalized groups, the obstacles that Ron must overcome are far greater than any I have ever faced. And when I came into work one day and discovered Mark, another resident, lying in his own feces and urine, I realized just how vulnerable my friends were to institutional abuse and neglect. I realized that many people have no voice in society, and standing there with Mark, I knew I would be a voice for the defenseless. It was with this new conviction that I began my studies at Grinnell. In addition to pursuing my passion for German, I realized that political science could provide me with a basis of knowledge that would prepare me for a career in human rights law. In much the same way that I used books as stepping stones out of difficult circumstances, I came to view politics, power and law as mechanisms that I could later manipulate to advocate for those whom societies and governments often overlook. I found it natural to view my studies through the filter of my own experiences. When reading about NAFTAI envisioned my mother who, after assembling hinges in a factory for ten years, suddenly became unemployed when it moved to Mexico. Such policies are not mere abstractions; they are complex issues that have tangible effects on important people in my life.
After law school I want to work for a human rights and development ,institute helping to litigate national and international complaints of human rights abuse. In addition, I want to help formulate new policies to reduce social, economic, and political discrimination, specifically of the disabled and for people living with HIV/AlDS.
Although I have a passion for human rights, without an intellectual basis in development studies I will lack the knowledge to implement what is in my heart. Human rights abuse is inextricably linked to the economic, social and political factors within a nation. To be effective as a human rights lawyer, then, it is necessary to understand how these factors contribute to changes in society. Having sought out educational opportunities in Germany, Russia, Mexico, and Zambia, I see my desire to pursue an M. Phil. in development studies at Oxford as a natural transition, for it was within foreign environments that I gained the most insight into my studies and into myself. I have no doubt that development studies at Oxford will meet the criteria of intellectual rigor that I have set for myself, for my education, and for those I have promised to serve.