Alumni Spotlight: Emma Shull

Emma Shull, on el Panecillo overlooking the city of Quito, Ecuador.

If Global Visionaries had a poster child, Emma Shull just might be the “IT” girl.  Over the course of three years, Emma participated in our First Year Leadership Program, went on to serve as a member of the Youth Board and capped it all off as a Gap Year volunteer once she graduated from high school.  She’s currently wrapping up her undergraduate studies, but more on that later…

As a First Year participant, Emma traveled to Guatemala on the Summer Trip, where she worked on the construction work team and first met Billy Lopez (last month’s featured alumnus).   Asked why she decided to serve on the GV Youth Board, she responded that the inspiration came from a retreat workshop put on by the previous year’s YB pro-justice (PJ) team on the Theatre of the Oppressed.  Not surprisingly, she spent her year on the Youth Board passing on her pro-justice knowledge onto the succeeding group of First Years.  And then there was Ruthie Ditzler, whom Emma had met in her first year with GV; Ruthie made enough of an impression for Emma to decide to expand her role with GV as a Gap Year volunteer when the time came.  Emma spent her first six months undertaking work that was near and dear to her heart: developing the pro-justice curriculum and topics for GV workshops.  With GV’s help, she also applied for and obtained a Youth Venture grant (worth $1,000) to support her ongoing work.  The second half of Emma’s gap year was spent in Antigua, Guatemala, where she continued to develop her pro-justice work and expertise; this time adapting the model and theory for training of GV’s Guatemalan staff and volunteers.  Emma was careful in ensuring that what she taught reflected a Latino context.

One of the exercises that GV used to have its First Year participants do upon their return to the US was to write a letter addressed to him or herself, that would be received a year later.  In Emma’s letter to herself, there were three resolutions:

  1. Go back to Guatemala
  2. Attend a university that would provide opportunities to travel the world
  3. Use the knowledge gained during her time with GV to help other youth
  • Go back to Guatemala – did so as a Gap Year volunteer!

…and fast-forwarding to today for resolutions 2 and 3:

  • Attend a university that would provide opportunities to travel the world – Emma is getting ready to graduate (May 10th) from Long Island University Global College with a BA in Global Studies.  In the course of her undergraduate career, she has lived in Costa Rica, China and Ecuador.  Even more remarkably, her Gap Year in Guatemala was accepted for 18 credits as part of a “Life Experience Portfolio” towards graduation requirements, so she’s finishing a year early!
  • Use knowledge gained during time with GV to help other youth – Emma is currently undertaking a Spring internship with the Sadie Nash Leadership Project to promote leadership and activism among young women (particularly those of color).

Finally, some words directly from Ms. Emma herself…

Please describe how your experiences with GV have helped you to interact with people, cultures and environments outside of your own during your studies abroad.

- Above all, my skill as an observer is one I often attribute to my time with GV.  I appreciate how GV encourages participants to always ask questions and to reflect on observations.  My experience with GV directly influenced my decision to enroll at LIU Global as it is a school that emphasizes experiential learning.

Have you experienced any moments of profound insight, where you realized that had you not been a part of GV, your perception of an event or issue would be quite different?

- In general my time abroad always leads me to this conclusion.  The biggest concept I have taken with me abroad is the recognition of my systemic role in societal oppressions such as racism and imperialism. Without this point of reference my experiences abroad would be completely misconstrued.  GV has taught me to think critically (not negatively) about my surroundings and about the people I meet along the way.

One of the issues that GV participants sometimes face upon completing their time with us is tackling the question of how to continue living the mission in their own lives.  Beyond your internship with SNLP, what are your plans for continuing to be mindful of all that you’ve learned through GV and beyond in living a conscientious life?

-  I am passionate about youth and creative learning.  Wherever I am, and whatever I am doing, my role in the empowerment of youth will be essential.  As far as long term goals are concerned, one day I’d like to eventually start a youth-run Theatre of the Oppressed troupe.    

Do you have any advice for current GV participants (first year, YB or those considering a Gap Year with GV)?

- My advice to current participants is to really search within your community, in Seattle, and outside of Seattle who have similar sets of interests.  I feel that it is important to create a sense of community where you live, and GV (although a great community) can also become its own bubble.  Get out, and volunteer with other like-minded organizations and expand your network!  

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