I’m Katie. I’m a 16 year-old high school junior, and the executive director and founder of Dare to LEAD.
From the very beginning, Dare to LEAD has been centered around kindness, strength, and compassion for others. These three words perfectly embodied one of the most influential persons in my entire life: My bà nội (grandmother), a true woman of character, grace, and pure joy. My bà nội (grandmother)’s death in 2012 was my first encounter with grief. She was known in our family for providing a love-filled bowl of pho, or giving us the warmest hugs that could cure a gloomy day. However those were not the only things that left an impact; her strength and kindness left an everlasting effect on everyone she interacted with. She never failed to touch everyone around her in a positive way even if she didn’t mean to. Her immigration from Vietnam to the United States in 1983 has given me and my family life beyond the poverty, social injustice, and hardship she had to persevere through growing up in a communist torn country.
Growing up in an immigrant family has been eye-opening to hear their personal stories and then also be able to see firsthand many underprivileged children in Vietnam. It has given me greater gratitude for the opportunities and freedom my grandma and parents worked incredibly hard for. I developed an unwavering determination to continue her legacy of kindness and strength by creating a better world not only for myself, but also for others around me. However this is easier said than done.
How?? The question of the century! In middle school, I became more active by joining clubs like Student Council and organizations that would enable me to make a difference. Planning a school dance is a great way to support school spirit, but I wasn’t satisfied with just that. I never was elected for certain leadership positions, and looking back now I understand why. My idea of “leadership” when I was younger wasn’t placed in the right qualities.
Fast forward years into high school- I began to implement important leadership qualities in my everyday actions. My identity as a leader is one I hold to the highest regard. Going to a school where the motto is Esto Dux, “Be a leader,” it caused me to think more about what a leader is. I focused on helping others and discovered my passion for service. One of the riveting inspirations for growth in my leadership stems from the saying, “If it is below you to serve, it is beyond you to lead”. Wow. It’s still a wake up call everytime I read it.
I knew my passion for service and leading other youth to discover their passions could amount to more. A late night car ride with a friend about me going on and on about how I wanted to start some type of club, organization, or nonprofit led to a Chipotle meeting where next thing you know, the idea of Dare to LEAD was born! Dare to LEAD's four fundamental steps: Learn, Empower, Act, and Direct were all written on a scrap of Chipotle’s napkins! Over the course of seven months, I continued to develop Dare to LEAD with hundreds of phone calls, meetings, paperwork, and late nights. It became the most real to me after my first team meeting. It was refreshing to hear voices as passionate about servant leadership and youth development as I was. This is Dare to LEAD’s story and only the beginning of it’s (Chipotle napkin) chapter.