Kenan Scholars are constantly surrounded by the idea of service, but we are rarely educated on ability, whether it be our own or that of others.
I spent this summer on Journey of Hope, a two-month cross-country bike ride that raises money, awareness and acceptance for people with disabilities. My team of 22 cyclists and seven crew members traveled from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., averaging 75 miles a day. Most days included “friendship visits,” or events in which we interacted with people with disabilities and their supporting organizations.
My Journey of Hope experience has taught me several things. First, the structure and discipline of its daily requirements have prepared me for the demands of full-time work.
Of more value, I learned to embrace the abilities of all people, from the wheelchair-bound camper I met to the teammate with cerebral palsy and limited use of the left side of his body, who rode faster than anyone for much of the trip). I even learned to believe in my own abilities. I discovered that the reason I woke up at 5 a.m. and biked every day was because I can.
I learned to ride for those whose who relied on the two wheels of a wheelchair, and for those who eagerly awaited our arrival with the same enthusiasm they might anticipate their birthday or Christmas.
I learned to look past the disabilities of others and focus on what they are capable of, and that the limitations we put on people with disabilities is our own doing, not theirs.
I learned that when someone cannot do something, those of us who are able to can change that person’s life by helping them achieve a previously impossible task.
I could go on with the lessons of the summer, but I ultimately learned to love being myself and being in the present. Those are the two things we all can do, no matter our social, economic or cultural background.
The Kenan Scholars program supported and prepared me for this experience in many ways. Our exposure to the public sector helped me in representing and understanding The Ability Experience, the organization that each team member raised $6,000 for prior to the commencement of the trip. The Kenan Institute’s support in financially contributing to my fundraiser proved their commitment to their own mission and students. The mentors, peers and guest speakers I have interacted with in my 2 ½ years in the program have instilled in me a desire for public good and personal success, which were key aspects of this summer’s experience.
The mission of The Ability Experience is to use shared experiences to support people with disabilities and develop the men of Pi Kappa Phi into servant leaders. We helped put this mission into action by raising money for organizations of our choosing, actively participating in friendship visits, and encountering several examples of community leadership. While I was certainly affected by the courage of the people with disabilities with whom I became friends, equally as inspiring were those who devoted their lives to helping others and those who supported us with meals, lodging, experiences and words of wisdom.
Although I have now graduated from the Kenan Scholars, I feel just as connected to the program due to its unwavering support of my Journey of Hope. This summer, I saw firsthand how easy enhancing the public good can be, and how we are all able are to do it, making me excited to go forward and have my private sector endeavors ultimately achieve that. I will now soon be joining the working world with a renewed sense of purpose and understanding of my own abilities and those of others. Thank you to all those who made this trip possible!
Although I have now graduated from the Kenan Scholars, I feel just as connected to the program due to its unwavering support of my Journey of Hope.Phil Piasecki, Kenan Scholar