The mission of The Gap Project is to support the academic, social and emotional growth of North Carolina Students through providing equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, regardless of financial ability.
When I was eight years old, I dreamed of one day wearing a sparkly pancake tutu, while starring as the Sugar Plum Fairy in my favorite ballet. The soundtrack of my brother’s life was the sound of a golf ball making crisp contact on the sweet spot of his driver. From the time we were little, our dreams were big, but our parents were plagued by dollar signs and haunted by the inability to afford them. How much were pointe shoes? A set of golf clubs? Costume fees? More golf balls? The list went on, and the numbers only got bigger as we grew older. An unforgiving equation, it seemed like expenses outweighed dreams, but our family did everything they could to allow my brother and I to chase our passions. From cleaning the neighborhood golf clubhouse nightly after my brother practiced, to building sets for my dance studio, picking the range after hours for extra money, or student teaching dance classes, there was nothing we wouldn’t do. From a young age, we learned that hard work and sacrifice are the only things that can balance out an equation like this one, and it was an invaluable experience having to work our way to the top. But while we were lucky enough to see our dreams come true, I quickly realized that many kids often don’t have the same opportunities.
Students throughout my community, who are talented, intelligent, hard workers, often fall short of their dreams coming true because of financial inability. There is a gap between low and high income students in my community, and it is time that gap is closed. As I got older, I realized there was no reason why I couldn’t be the person to make this change in my community. With dreams in one hand, and a vision in the other, I wanted to use what I had learned from my own experience to share it with other deserving students. This year, I founded my own nonprofit organization called The Gap Project that works to help student athletes in my area afford their extracurricular activities and necessary equipment. All a student should have to bring to practice is their hard work and love for what they do, not the worry that they aren’t good enough because they can’t afford a brand new pair of cleats. We aren’t just bridging the gap between low and high income students, we are attempting to get rid of it all together.
The value in my community is already here. It’s in the students, the love they have for what they do, and the endless bounds they will go to for their passions. But it is our job to give back to the community that has given so much to us. These students deserve a fighting chance. I was one of these kids once, and I am not sure where I would be if someone hadn’t taken a chance on me all those years ago. I want to continue to help who I can, when I can. To use my privilege to help those in need is the greatest honor I can think of, and the torch I will use to light the way to my future. With this hope in my heart and the ability to use it, I will not fall short in changing the world. Viola Davis once said, “if you’re dedicated to change, let it cost you something.” For this cause, in this world, I would let it cost me everything to give every student the same opportunity I had. I deserve it no more, and they deserve it no less, and this truth is worth everything.
My work with The Gap Project in my community is far from over. I hope to one day spread our message not just from my community, but to all over our country. In my career, I hope to continue to spread the value of hard work and the message that anyone can be anything, regardless of what you may have been told. I don’t know where this path will take me, or what exactly I will be doing twenty years from now, but I know I will be led with this: no matter who I become, I will always be the little girl who couldn’t afford her dance lessons, but worked to star in the show anyway. I am dedicated to helping every child step out of the shadow a bank account can cast, and into the spotlight of their very own show.