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A Passion for Social Activism: Grace Douvos

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Teaching at City Year

This post is part of our new series, in which students and young adults tell their own stories of discovering, nurturing, and pursuing their passions.

When I began applying to colleges, the main question in my head was: “How will this college help me change the world?”

My passion for social change began when I was 13 years old and moved across the country to go to boarding school in Massachusetts. I was still discovering my passions and figured that the best way to find things I liked to do would be to try new things.

During my first winter at school, I joined the Model United Nations program. Since I’ve always enjoyed history, politics, and current events, it seemed like it might be a good fit. I decided to stick with it, and, in turn, was able to attend the Ivy League Model United Nations Conference that year. Model UN did inspire my interest in international relations — which is now what I will major in in college — but it also sparked an even deeper passion for activism even. Learning about international problems involving inequity became such a passion, in fact, that I plan to dedicate my career to fighting for justice.

By my junior year of high school, I became the co-head of my school’s Model UN program as well as the co-head of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance.

Fueled by my passions for fighting for social equality and social justice, I applied early decision to George Washington University and was fortunate to be accepted. At the same time, I was taking a civil rights course and learning about the school-to-prison-pipeline. I decided to do a major project on that subject and, after class, my teacher pulled me aside and told me about a program called City Year, an educational nonprofit that supports underfunded school districts by providing mentoring and tutoring services to students.

His daughter had undertaken a gap year with City Year, and he asked if I’d considered doing the same. It felt like a wonderful opportunity to pursue my passions, so I immediately applied to City Year San Jose and was accepted. My college supported my decision by allowing me to defer my admission.

I’m in my tenth month of service with City Year now. Every morning, I support a sixth grade teacher by working with students in small groups, solving math and science problems, and also as a general behavioral and informational support. Around noon, I lesson plan for City Year’s Extended Learning Time program after school, where I teach STEAM and Social Emotional Learning lessons to a group of 21 third and fourth graders. If you walk into our classroom, you’ll generally see us building a new gadget, creating a new scientific concoction, standing in a circle doing community building activities, or students in small group trying to figure out things ranging from math homework problems to how to solve the issue of homelessness in our community. I serve as not only their teacher, but their mentor, and a shoulder to lean on whenever they just need a listening ear.

I am getting to live my passion of advocating for positive change in communities. It’s hard work; I will have put in around 60 hours a week for an entire gap year before I attend college, all for a very low stipend, but it’s been worthwhile beyond my wildest dreams. I know I’ve made a difference to the kids in my care this year, serving as a role model for them to pursue their own passions one day.

My passion for activism was sparked by one program, yet it has grown and changed the course of my young adult life completely. Through college, I will continue to pursue service. My new school has a special residential and academic program for those committed to such service, and, via a competitive application process, I gained admission to it this year. I look forward to sharing my passions for service and for fighting for social justice and equality at an all-new level in the next chapter of my life, in college.

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Grace Douvos-profile-picture

I'm from the Bay Area in California. I recently graduated from Tabor Academy, a boarding high school in Massachusetts, and will be continuing to study international relations at the George Washington University for college. My passions include service, playing and listening to music, and traveling.