We Got Next: Hadley Orr
Posted on 14 June 2017
This June YXU has launched our "We Got Next" campaign to highlight more than 20 young leaders from across the country who are applying their passions to make a difference in their communities. Follow along with YXU on Facebook, @yxulife on Twitter and Instagram and grab your We Got Next tee benefiting the Lebron James Family Foundation.
Despite our own free will and the decisions we make in our own lives, in many ways we are products of the influences and environment we grew up in and are surrounded by. The recognition and acknowledgement I have received, including being asked to write this blog post is mostly as a result of the relationships and influences I grew up with and continue to be surrounded by. I am passionate about helping people and my influence on the next generation because of the mentors and teachers who I formed relationships with me and whom I wanted to emulate. I love people and I know what other people deserve. As I look around me, I see so much pain and suffering in my community and I know that I have the skills and enthusiasm to sustainably help, at least in some small way, not just throw a pity party. I believe people can be the puzzle pieces to a broken problem and I know that for me, I fit into the current refugee crisis. These people are completely torn from their home, come to United States not knowing the language, a familiar face, or the simple way of life here. I have a gift of language, making connections with people I do not know, and having fun. Being a mentor to Congolese and Syrian Refugees has given me the opportunity to teach English so that many other doors may be opened for them. It is not a handout but instead a window of opportunity that they can seize. Also, I have taught one of the female refugees to drive, scary as that was. All in all, I believe in mentoring and using my power and privilege to simply open doors for people. I have never bought a thing for them, but instead provided experiences and developed skills that I so often take for granted. I used to be passionate about glamorous and short lived work in communities, but as I have matured I now see that the unglamourous, long-term, sustainably driven relationships and mentoring are the strongest ways to induce change. I influence their lives in the ways others have influenced mine. I hope that the domino effect continues indefinitely.
While mentoring is important to me, I also have wanted a job that has an immense hope for influence. Being a high school Chemistry teacher in a lower income school district for me is not at all about science in the long run. While I do love science and am ardent about the ways in which science can be used to improve individual lives and the community, mentoring students and having great rapport with them is the underlying current that I have in all that I do. In college, I studied French and Chemistry as a result of my favorite teachers in high school. In many ways, I was not the easiest student, but they were resilient and fought against my childish ways. As a result, I was pushed to the limit intellectually and fell in love with learning. I believed in myself and was inspired to share this love of learning with others.
As a high school teacher and a mentor to refugees, I think it is incredibly significant that I am a young leader. Relating and dealing with high school students is not the easiest thing in the world, but being young helps me to a great extent with the next generation. I understand many of their references, much of their mindset, and am not so removed from their age that I do remember what that time was like for me. I have the flexibility as a young person to drop anything at a moment’s notice to help a student of mine or go to support them at an extracurricular event. Generally speaking, I can pick up and leave at any point and just follow my work where it leads me. I also am energetic and can give plenty to others at this point in my life. Also, I think it speaks volumes that I am young because I am not just some old teacher telling them how to live their lives because I consider everything an abomination and need to fix the kids of this new rotten generation. They trust my opinion about the bigger issues because I am not expected to care and they do not expect a young person to be judgmental of the lives of teenagers as a whole. My opinion carries more weight because they understand that I can empathize with them. This does not mean that leaders should finish their work at a certain age, but I simply hope that my words serve as one example of why being a leader in the community matters at this age. Get started early working with the next generation. They need safe places to ask hard questions and someone to be honest with them when they are headed in a destructive direction. I absolutely love my students and can only imagine the impact young leaders could have on others in their community.
All in all, I want to give one main point to all of this fluff. Helping people can be everyday. It is exhausting, infuriating, disappointing, and slow at many points. Do not misunderstand me about this. When all you want to do is curl up in a ball and none of your students seem to care, it can be extremely discouraging. However, just being honest, being human, and admitting that you are in this process with the people and causes you are working with pays off in the long run. People are starved for honesty and vulnerability in an age of social media perfection. Simple truths about how to be intentional with people are the easy building blocks of relationships, which are the foundation of anything sustainable when working with people. So, to anyone who wonders why them? Why their community? I say why not. It is nowhere close to easy to put your heart and soul into loving people and the next generation, but it is not complicated. So why not you? Why not now? Why not where you’re at?