Have you ever felt extremely scared to talk to someone? Stretched to the limits outside your comfort zone? Been afraid to go after a dream because you may fail? These are all things I felt before I arrived on Georgia State’s campus to embark on a weeklong journey with the hopes of creating a massive impact for those who call themselves the Panthers.
It was a dreary morning on October 17th, 2015 when I stepped out of the car on Piedmont Avenue in downtown Atlanta. I began walking to the student center where I would meet 300 students over the next four days who I’d never met before.
The goal was to try and create a powerful Wish Dish community that didn’t exist on campus, to ultimately inspire hundreds of students to express themselves in an authentic manner and build a strong community by sharing their stories.
It started after I went through a personal struggle and found my way out through writing.
After this positive experience, I wanted to create a platform where other people could do the same. Since we launched, Wish Dish has given 200 different people a voice, created jobs for students, and built relationships within our community that wouldn’t have existed.
After spending ten months at the University of Georgia learning and building a community for self-expression, our team decided to pick another school near Atlanta. We thought going to a city-school completely unlike Georgia would be a great learning experience. We thought building awareness from a much more diverse student body could provide our community with powerful stories.
I sat down with three hundred students, asked them about themselves, explained why I was on campus, showed them the website, and then asked them if they wanted to be part of making a difference on campus and sharing their story. It was amazing to see their reactions.
The very first person I spoke with messaged me later that night and said, “I have had so much trouble communicating with people the over past year since high school. I didn’t know what you were going to say to me, but your story is so powerful and had such a big impact with me. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.”
Many students I spoke with touched on their lack of school spirit and community. Many other students also expressed how they didn’t feel their teachers were truly invested in their education. With Georgia State largely being a commuter school, it made sense that students may feel they lack the “community” aspect on campus.
I also noticed this when sitting down with students and talking to them as most of the conversations were one on one instead of with friend groups. These realizations and perspectives made me want to bring Wish Dish to campus even more.
Georgia State also helped me realize there were students from all around the world. In just four days I met students from Russia, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, India, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, Brazil, and Romania. I heard their incredible stories, and what stood out to me most was how appreciative they were for having the opportunity to study in the United States. I didn’t get the feeling as if the same opportunities for education existed in their home countries.
One of the students I met was named Yana. She came from Russia this summer and talked about how amazing it was to study in the United States. She said that back home in Russia, you cannot even walk down the streets and smile at people. She mentioned there was no opportunity back home, you aren’t given options for what you can learn, and many cheat the school system by paying for their marks.
Another student I met was named Victor Hernandez. Victor came to Georgia State from Venezuela. He was extremely entrepreneurial and here pursuing a degree in Computer Science so he could be an asset to helping build his father’s company back home. He believed in the vision for Wish Dish, connected me with students on campus, and helped me get into the library to meet more students.
While one of my goals for the week was meeting hundreds of students, another one of my goals was to begin building a team that would want to be part of spreading this movement individually on campus.
Quinnita is leading our Brand Ambassador team at Georgia State and previously shared her story on Wish Dish which was about growing up with abandonment issues. I was able to train her and watch her talk to over a dozen students. One of the neatest stories about Quinnita is that she took the time to send an email to fifty classmates that evening without my knowledge.
The day after I met her, I was back in the student center speaking with a few students, and they told me they had heard about Wish Dish from a class email, from Quinnita. Her drive to make a difference is inspiring. I hope to have the same influence on this campus as I did with Quinnita.
Together we can connect the campus together and create an outlet that becomes the place students go to and share their story. It just takes a few people willing to be brave to be its first leaders. I and the whole Wish Dish team invite you, the Panthers to take part in this movement of openness, honesty, and self-expression.
If you would like to contribute and join our movement, please put your name in this Google Doc link and we will reach out to you directly.