Paying Rotary Forward

One the highlights of my week is always my Tuesday night Dupont Circle Rotary Club meetings. Since July I have taken on the role of coordinating external speakers, which happens twice a month at our club. I find it to be rewarding to identify and connect with folks who are always doing interesting work in the world.

Tonight we had a speaker present about her experience as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Kate was fortunate enough to study at beautiful Trinity College in Dublin Ireland.

We were the 17th Rotary Club that she has presented to, a dozen of which were in Ireland. Her speech and stories reminded me so much of being a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Finland, what that experience did for me in terms of opening me up to the opportunities in the world, and introducing me to the Rotary family.

I will admit that she also made me a bit jealous of her experience. There are very few things in my life that I have truly envisioned and dreamed of doing and have not fulfilled. Getting my Masters through a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship was certainly on my bucket list for things to do in my early career. By the time I was ready to go into my masters, at around 28, I was already engaged to my husband and planning our lives together. It also wasn’t in the cards with James pursuing his Ph.D. already.

While there is certainly a part of me that dreams of what that might have looked like, as I am most certain that it would have been an incredible experience, I am also grateful for what I have accomplished.

I was able to pay off my entire education by my early thirties. That included my graduate degree at University of Maryland, which was a bargain in comparison to many programs at $35k in full. Plus $25k in student loans, thanks to hefty grants, and approximately $20k a semester at a time by working two jobs at close to minimum wage throughout my undergrad program at Lewis & Clark College.

So there is another part of me that feels that I was able to take my lessons learned as a young exchange student and pay it forward to the successful career that I have had, enabling opportunities for others to take advantage of Rotary’s great academic and culture programs, not to mention development work around the world.

It feels good to be reminded of the impact of Rotary in the world and on individual lives.

In peace,


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