Share a meaningful experience and how this has helped shape you in your preparation for college. This should be related to your passions, commitments, leadership experience, family, or cultural background.

A couple of my friends and I found ourselves on a side of Missoula we hadn’t ever been to. We stood outside of a square-shaped gray building made of cement on the outside. I had already accepted that we were about to discover a new level of the real world: Certain Doom.

Three days before, our Creative Writing teacher informed our class about a slam poetry reading in our town. Our teacher encouraged us to split into groups, write a poem, and challenged us to even enter the reading and share what we had to say. Slam poetry, a very emotionally charged writing style, was not all too difficult for us to achieve. We feared for the rights of women, the LGBTQ+ community, and the people of color in our country because of the administration who seemed to care for only cisgender white males. Not knowing what we were getting into, two of my friends and I enrolled ourselves to read our thoughts in front of a sea of strangers. I thought I could do it until I shifted my car into park at the venue.

Now, I have never been one for talking in front of groups of people, especially strangers. I grew up shy, dreading dinners and barbecues because I was afraid of kids my age. As a child, I hid behind my mother when I didn’t know anybody, and as a high schooler waiting for that reading, I wished I had a mother to hide behind.

For reference, the reading took place in early January of 2017. The recent election had stunned the nation and protests still flooded the news. Our poem served as our reaction to the slogan of our president-elect, Donald Trump. We added our names to the list and made our way over to the provided metal chairs silently rehearsing it to ourselves until a woman cleared her throat into the microphone. She welcomed us and informed the crowd of the rules and that the order of the readers would be picked out of a glass bowl. We waited for what felt like three hours, but when it was finally our turn, we wished we had more time. My knees buckled as we walked up the stairs to the stage. I searched for familiar faces in the crowd that now seemed like a stadium full of judges. I cleared my throat and began.

In the end, the judges offered numbers to be averaged for our final score. We smiled uneasily as the judges didn’t gave us critiques as if we would ever read our poem somewhere else for a crowd. Out of thirty people who entered, the three of us took fifth place. We went home feeling a sense of accomplishment that I had never experienced before. Not for how well we did, but instead because people in the crowd understood what we said and gave hoots and hollers at our more powerful lines and details. Others feared for the future in a similar way that we did. I felt less alone than I’d felt in a while. The affirmation from the judges didn’t hurt either.

That spring, the Climate March in downtown Missoula took place. We marched down the ever so familiar main road of our downtown with signs and chants. The grey streets were flooded with activists and environmentalists all for the same cause, Mother Earth. Weeks before, our school’s Green Club decided to speak in front of a group of Missoulians concerned about climate change and the environment. Again, my friends and I volunteered for the same reason as the slam: to make an impact. Again, we heard reassuring cheers from the audience, and again, we felt great afterward.

Speaking in front of groups has never been my strong suit and will never fail to make me nervous. I can say without a doubt that even if it means doing something terrifying such as public speaking, I love being heard. I love to both reach out to people and be in a position to listen to them. Yes, I still want to hide behind my mother at barbecues and dinners. What is different now is that I have a voice. In America and on Earth, today demands that I use it.

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