Bringing a Global Perspective to Campus

Given your interests, values, and goals, explain why Oberlin College will help you grow (as a student and a person) during your undergraduate years. (300 words)

By: James Francis

There I am: a relatively shy 15-year-old male, standing in front of an all girls class reading a story about menstrual cycles and a steamy affair. A day before, I face a small mob pulling at me as if I were Jay Z as opposed to Jay Francis. It all started with Kids Powered, an organization my sister and I founded many years ago. Who would have thought we would grow from lemonade stands to one day delivering school supplies to the shantytown of Nyanza just outside Cape Town? I organized a community service project in South Africa after a family friend shared the story of teaching in the shantytowns without simple school supplies. So we raised money to buy and deliver supplies. In the first class I visited, I read aloud to the all girl class. The school did not have enough books for everyone, so the teacher often reads to the students.

Our drive to the high school was striking due to the prominent TV satellite dishes littering the roofs of tiny shacks made of scrap metal. I saw the impact of the satellites in an 11th grade boys’ math class as students asked me to describe my encounters with rap stars that they knew through television. “You never met Kanye West?”

If so many young people there connect so deeply to American pop culture, can we not find a way to excite them about other slices of America centering around, say, energy, technology or something of great benefit to the students’ futures? What if Oberlin’s revolutionary water treatment “Living Machine” came to the shantytown? I would be at home probing such a question at Oberlin, which inspires my devout interests in the college. I seek a liberal arts education that complements my passions for science and math in a way that allows me to imagine and then implement steps to a better world.

James Francis is a graduate of The Ethical Culture Fieldston School and is currently a sophomore at Oberlin College

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