Aileen Ida is an exceptionally motivated student who embodies the motto of Elizabethtown College: "Educate for Service." At a time when political tensions threaten to cripple our national life, Ms. Ida has repeatedly demonstrated her commitment to building bridges across these divides. She helped form a coalition of the College Democrats, College Republicans, and the campus libertarian Young Americans for Liberty to register voters, take voters to the polls on election day, and educate voters about the election.
Ms. Ida's commitment to fostering social and political change while maintaining relationships with those who disagree with her has been sorely tested and yet redeemed in the midst of a "personal identity" campaign that she organized. The previous close ties among campus political groups nearly disintegrated in the wake of heated discussion and virulent off-campus pressures on the Republicans and libertarians to denounce the College Democrats. Despite an extraordinarily tense situation on campus, Ms. Ida helped restore cooperation with her peers in a statement released to wide media attention. Ms. Ida's leadership helped heal the campus, reduced much of the negative social media attention, and demonstrated a civility that her elders in our nation's capital should emulate.
Growing up, my family primarily fell below the poverty line and for quite a few years my three siblings and I were raised by an amazing single mother. We never had it easy, but no matter what we experienced my siblings and I were always encouraged to go the extra mile to help others and stand up for justice and equality. The connections I have made with people on a personal level while doing community service and advocacy work give me a greater joy than anything I have ever experienced before. These connections led me to know, at a young age, that I would spend the rest of my life helping people. For me, helping people happens in a variety of ways from classic community service (i.e. food pantry), to faith-based work (i.e. Cherish All Children, Interfaith Youth Core), to social justice work. I am active in all these areas today and have been challenged by my family, by my friends and by myself to make waves - to have the challenging conversations, to share my story and to listen to the stories of others - and I intend to do just that now and into the future.