Friday, February 2, 2018

My People

by Keegan O'Ravez
2017 Legacy Awards Recipient

Keegan spending time
with fellow Elks scholars.
My name is Keegan O’Ravez and I am a freshman at Sonoma State University. I am majoring in pre-nursing with a minor in Spanish. I am a 2017 Legacy scholar, and the winter trip to Santa Monica was my first time going on an Elks Scholar Service Trip.

When I heard about the service trip to Santa Monica, I was in a place where I needed more from my time. On a whim, I applied to the trip. I was intrigued, and nervous, but mostly excited to go on this unknown adventure. Back then, I never realized how big of an impact this trip was going to have on me. During the week, I learned three major lessons that changed my perspective on people experiencing homelessness, my understanding of the people who make these trips possible, and my connection to fellow Elks scholars.

I grew up in a beautiful town in northern California, surrounded by lakes and mountains. However, as years went by, violence, homelessness and drugs became the highlight of my town, rather than the scenery. I was always frustrated; people experiencing homelessness seemed to be taking over the town. After this trip, my frustration has been put to ease. I realized that the people I referred to as “taking over the town” are people just like you and me. They have feelings, wants and dreams, but they might not have the same privileges that some of us take for granted. Some are really trying to end this chapter of their lives and seek help, but some may not be aware of resources or think they deserve help. Because of the trip, I now understand I should give more time and respect to those experiencing homelessness.

Keegan serving alongside Elks scholars.
During the trip, I also gained more insight into the people behind the scenes—the people who make it possible for me to take part in service trips and to have been awarded a scholarship through the Elks National Foundation. We were treated like kings and queens when we visited three different Elks Lodges in the Santa Monica area.

For them, we are a reminder of why they do what they do. To us, they are a reminder that what we do is because they make it possible. R.A. Pickett was one of the Elks I had the pleasure of meeting over the week. You could see the love he had for other members and how much he cares for the Elks. Every pin he gave me had its own unique story. He even joined us at our last service site to help feed people at a homeless shelter. He and all the Elks are the reason I can go on these trips and make an impact.
Keegan holds a pin shared with her by
 R.A. Pickett, member of Santa Monica, Calif., Lodge No. 906.

The last realization I came to during my trip was that the fellow Elks scholars who came on the trip are “my people.” I was surrounded by young adults who are passionate about school, travel and volunteering. Just a few days into the trip, I felt at home. As the week went on, someone from the outside would have assumed we had known each other our whole lives, or that we were a version of a Cheaper by the Dozen family. We truly became #ElksFamily that week, and it is a bond that will be with us forever.

The people I met and the experiences I had on this trip will stay with me for a lifetime. I am already signed up to serve in San Antonio in celebration of the Elks’ 150th anniversary. I cannot wait to see familiar faces and expand my Elks family. The opportunities I have been extended through the Elks National Foundation are making my dreams come true.

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