“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I’ve lived the life people dream of for their children.

I grew up in the town of Paradise, PA to parents who were brought up into stable, privileged homes. The name of my hometown accurately describes my idyllic childhood – full of love and support with a dash of adventure. I felt safe, I felt unburdened, I felt free.

To put it bluntly, some of my classmates have experienced more hardship in one day than I have in my entire life.

In hearing my classmates’ experiences, I realized neither my privilege nor their struggles were unique. I finally saw the world as a complicated web of cultural systems weaving the fabric of oppression. My privilege is more than an opportunity. It’s a responsibility. It’s a duty.

I will create spaces that celebrate people for their intricate identities.

I will use my spot at the table to step back and make room for voices that don’t sound like mine.

I will build a world where everyone’s children can live in Paradise.

— Olivia vonNieda