DSC_1572Documentary Studies 271S was one of four of my first college classes. I knew college classes would be different than any other high school class I had taken, but I wasn’t quite sure how different it would be. In high school, while class taught us what it was designed to teach, it really didn’t have an impact in the lives around us, or even really DO anything. As I signed up for class, I was sadly pessimistic about what this class would accomplish. I thought it would be like another high school class, where I would learn what I’m supposed to learn, but really do nothing for the people and community around me. I enrolled in this class because it was a service-learning course, which meant it had to possibility to defy my high school standards and have an impact on the community, but my confidence in this possibility was minimal at best. What I found the first day of class gave me confidence in my next 4 years at Duke University.

On that day, the professor told us about his plan for the class, a project that will actually benefit our community. Instead of the high-school structure of class, I was introduced to a class that I have been looking for—a class with meaning and purpose. This project was something I could be and was excited about. Not only would it get me involved with this new community I was living in, but it would also be the opportunity to give back to the community that I was looking for.

Throughout my work on my project this semester, I worked with an incredible organization, Raise Up for 15, and a remarkable individual, Nakiel Clemons. The goal of Raise Up for 15 is to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers from $7.25/hr to $15/hr. Nakiel is a local fast food worker who is also an active participant in the organization. Coming from an area where the majority or all of the workers at fast food restaurants are high school students who needed to make a little side money, it was eye opening to learn that there are families out there that have to live on the salary of $7.25/hr. Nakiel is one of those workers who has to support his two kids, plus their mother, on $7.25/hr. Even in these circumstances that he faces, he still tries his hardest to instill good work ethic in his kids, even if it means prohibiting his son from playing his favorite sport, basketball, until he gets his grades up.

The opportunity to work with Nakiel was inspirational. He is someone who wants his children to have the best lives possible and will do anything to make that possibility come true. He is supporting his family off of this salary, yet still finds time to be such an active participant in the Raise Up for 15 campaign because he believes that it will make his and his family’s lives better. He is also not the only person like this. There are people everywhere that support a family off such a low salary and still try there hardest to provide the best for their kids.

I’ve always been a believer that we should try to give back to the community that we live in because we all face tough times in our lives. If we know what its like to be struggling, why shouldn’t we do anything we can to help someone else that may be going through a tough time? This project let me do that in my new community—it let me give back.