Sonya Ajani

My name is Sonya Ajani; I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. I am currently a freshman at Marquette University studying International Affairs. I want to become an attorney in the future and to hopefully get my PhD in Islamic Studies.

I have been a part of the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana for the past 13 years. I am a part of the Alexander Hamilton Society for International Relations, the Pre-Law Society and the Criminology and Law Society at Marquette University.

Community service is one of the most important cornerstones in my life. I first started doing community service with Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana since I was a Brownie. I was introduced to many different areas of community service throughout my career in Girl Scouts. I have completed the Bronze Award, where I completed 50 hours of general community service, my Silver Award, Kits for Kids, where I created care packages for children at Lutheran General Hospital. For my Gold Award, I created a 72-Hour Survival Kit where I educated 175 families around the Glenview area about ways to protect against natural and man-made disasters. I have also done a project to honor my late grandfather, and I have collected over 50,000 old/used eyeglasses to donate to the Lions of Lighthouse Foundation. I was a study-buddy tutor at the Youth Services of Glenview and Northbrook. I tutored 6th and 8th grade students on the homework that they needed help with. In the summer of 2012, I also had the distinct opportunity to attend Global Encounters in Mombasa, Kenya. This month-long service-learning trip allowed me to experience teaching environmental science at a school that did not have the adequate resources, but had passion and zeal to learn, which therefore made academic success much easier to harness. I also established an after-school tutoring program that either pairs students with teachers or pairs older students with younger students to get help in their studies. I have also received the Presidential Service Award five years in a row for my completion of 50 hours of service each year.

I admire the Dalai Lama, the most important spiritual leader for Tibetan Buddhism. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has harnessed spiritual happiness through his teachings of the mind and the soul. He inspired me to make time to be alone in contemplation in the midst of a world filled with material ambiguity. His Holiness has allowed me to harness the spirituality within by yearning to attune with myself and at the same time still being an active member of society. His Holiness expresses the true importance of compassion and altruism through the meditation of the mind. The most important teaching that resonates with me is the importance of a lifetime of service. To the Dalai Lama one can only reap true happiness through the engagement of service, and immersing yourself in the task of helping others. The Dalai Lama offers both spiritual and meditational guidance that engages people from all walks of life. His pluralistic nature and teachings grant me the opportunity to learn His Holiness’ teachings and put into practice. The Buddhist teachings have changed my perception on happiness, success, failure, and create a balance between my material and spiritual lives without losing sight of one or the other. The Dalai Lama is the true epitome of a balanced life. His patience motivates me to be stronger in my conviction to not only reach my goals, but also create a legacy that will last for generations to come.

When President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech to the members of Congress for the United States of America, he shared not only some of the difficulties that we have faced during his term in office, but also some potential solutions regarding how we may go about solving those problems. One such problem is sight. There are many individuals that are living in poverty and who do not have the access or the financial resources to own a pair of glasses. According to the UNESCO report of 2015, illiteracy rate for the adults living in third world countries is less than 10%. This is in partly due to the fact that some are not able to own eyeglasses to see and read. I have been actively working for the last seven years to be part of the solution to this issue by establishing an organization called “Gift of Sight.” and send them to the Lions of Lighthouse Foundation based in Chicago, IL. I have been putting boxes in public places in my community such as my school, the Public Library, Senior Center, and Optometrist Offices. As well as I have also fortunately received glasses from friends and family. I have donated over 10,000 used eyeglasses over the last seven years. The Lions Club has the means to clean and determine the prescription of these eyeglasses and distribute them to countries where there is need. If everyone gives one pair of glasses to help others who are in need, think about how many people would get to obtain their sense of sight again. I am adamant that I, along with many other members of the community will provide a light of hope to all those who cannot afford to have a pair of glasses.

Every day, as we get ready to go to evening prayers in our community center, my grandmother puts on her volunteer uniform ready to serve the community. My grandmother has been serving the community for the past 60 or more years. She exhibits the passion and zeal for service that motivates me to follow in her footsteps. My grandmother has demonstrated resilience and compassion in her work both silently as well as in sight. My grandma has a strong commitment to community service, and she is the epitome of what I hope to become in the future. She has the courage to stand up stronger when tasks get tough, and does it with a true humble nature. My grandma has taught me to be selfless and to work hard for your goals. My grandmother exhibits the patience, compassion, and dedication for her work no matter how hard a task is.. She teaches me the importance of putting others needs before your own. She has created a strong, long-lasting legacy that has allowed her to be remembered for generations to come. I hope to one-day follow in her footsteps to continue to be engaged in a lifetime of service that will ultimately allow me to not only contribute to her strong legacy, but also create my own.