My experience at Seeds of Peace set me on a path of personal inquiry, global exploration, and humility in the face of big and important questions in a way that nothing else in my life has. It taught me to understand four things:
• People have stories. Recognizing and understanding those stories is maybe the most important thing we can do to truly “see” the person in front of us, connect with them, and allow them to feel listened to and acknowledged.
• There are national narratives that can coexist in complete opposition to one another to the point that people truly believe that wars started for different reasons, and they can both be right. We must recognize that our stories and other people’s stories can coexist even in their opposition and make a concerted and continued effort to use clarity of language to understand where the differences are and why. This takes effort and real work, but it is worth it.
• There is nothing as powerful as learning how to place yourself in another’s shoes. One of the most powerful experiences for me at Camp was a session my first summer in dialogue where our facilitators told a Palestinian and an Israeli to switch places and tell their stories as the other would. To watch them both learn out loud how to represent the “other” was incredibly moving. Like clarity of communication, having enough humility to be able to place yourself in another’s shoes is a lifelong journey.
• It is possible to make human connections with people who live far away and have very different lives. After my experience at Camp, suddenly, my world was opened up and I had friends who lived 3, 7, or 12 time zones away and had lives that were simultaneously very similar to mine and very, very different. When Asel Asleh was killed my senior year of high school, it was really a wake-up call to realize that so many people my age around the world weren’t just thinking about where to go to college. I realized that I wasn’t ready to make that “normal” transition and that I wanted to learn more about this part of the world that my new friends lived in. I spent four months of that year living on the kibbutz that one of my best friend’s from my first summer at Camp grew up on. Her family was my host family. I saw her in March 2014, 15 years after we met at camp as 15-year-olds, and was amazed at how much we still had to talk about on personal, political, and emotional levels. Seeds of Peace allows friendships to form because we have similar values about how to see the person in front of us, but that would never have happened otherwise simply because we never would have crossed paths.
How are you impacting your community?
Seeds of Peace changed the trajectory of my life. My experiences at Seeds of Peace influenced my choices to travel and live in the Middle East and Southern Africa. It also made me interested in the study of international development and what empowerment truly means as I came to think about the study of development as the study of understanding how to support people to make choices that benefit their own lives.
I completed a Ph.D. in Public Health. In my current research, I am interested in the relationship between context—both social and physical–and adolescent health in urban areas. The buzzwords in public health to describe this area of research right now are the “social determinants of health,” which basically means that we are trying to better understand what are the sociological, political, and economic aspects of the contexts we live, work, and socialize in that affect our health. This has led me to a position as a Research Scientist with a research organization called Child Trends, where I will be studying youth development and adolescent well-being.
I hope that this research will focus on work around positive youth development, youth empowerment, and research on how to help young people who experience violence cope with those negative experiences. I also hope that our research agenda can increasingly span the globe: studying issues in domestic, U.S. settings and also comparing our findings, measures, and experiences with those of young people around the world.
I can’t imagine that I would be approaching the study of public and adolescent health from the perspective that I am now without my experiences at Seeds of Peace as my understanding of the roles of both violence and youth empowerment in young people’s overall well-being was shaped by what I learned and experienced as a camper and a counselor.
• PhD, John Hopkins University, 2015
• MA, Harvard University, 2011
• BA, Brown University, 2006
• Counselor, Seeds of Peace, 2003-2005
“I can’t imagine that I would be approaching the study of public health from the perspective that I am now without my experiences at Seed of Peace.”