Personal/Diversity Statement Review

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Personal/Diversity Statement Review

Post by AP120 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:55 pm

Hi everyone,

I have drafts of my personal and diversity statements that are posted below. Was looking for some feedback for both. Will return the favor--please post comments or send message. Keep in mind that I paid little attention to grammar...just wrote as my thoughts came to mind. Thanks for your help:

Personal Statement:

I am not unique in that I grew up in a poor family or that my mother had me when she was seventeen. I am also not unique in that my brother is a person of color with a father of African-American descent. However, I have learned that of all the circles I am in and all the connections I have made, most people do not have the same background I do. For 26 years I have watched my mother be shamed for having a child young and poor and have seen my brother be subject to malicious racism. I was born and raised into a society that has labeled me and my family as underdogs, but was lucky to elevate myself beyond what our culture believes I should have been. Every day, I am so grateful for what I have and where I have ended up, and now; I want to be able to see more of society’s underdogs be elevated with me and this is why I desire nothing more than to do this as a Civil Rights attorney.

After having me at such a young age and only obtaining a high school diploma my mother merely perpetuated the cycle of poverty that she, too, was born into. My grandmother gave birth at a young age, did not graduate high school and worked a series of odd jobs her entire life. According to sociology, this should have put me in the same position. I was happy as a child—things like ripping garbage bags apart and lathering on dish soap to make a slip and slide didn’t seem weird to me—it was fun. It never bothered me that my toys came from garage sales and that my clothes were hand me downs from my aunt. It wasn’t until I was older, 11 maybe, when I started realizing the things that made me “poor.” My mom’s best friend, Shoddy, had a brother that was my age, Aria. Shoddy’s family was from Iran and her father was an engineer and her mother was a doctor. I loved going to their house because Aria, her brother, always had the newest toys and games to play with. Aria was in Orchestra and his parents bought him a new violin—something about him owning his own violin was amazing to me. He must have been rich if he could have his very own violin; I spent time at his house playing his video games realizing how cool it was that he had so many to pick form. He was my friend, but like any young boy, he would find ways to tease me. I remember waiting in the car with him one day as his mom pumped gas. We started arguing about something minute as children do and the argument turned into who had the bigger house. I felt like I had gained some ground—I had two bedrooms in my house just like he did, so we had equal houses. That is until he hit me with brutal 11 year old honesty and told me it didn’t matter because only poor people lived in apartments. In a way Aria opened my eyes—I became more aware of my differences with kids at school. I started realizing more that the friends I had all had their own houses. They had new, clean furniture; we had used couches with bedsheets on them to cover the stains. They had matching bed room sets; I had a bed from the 70s and a broken set of dresser drawers. I understood, more, that their parents didn’t work at grocery stores or as office assistants; they were businessmen and lawyers. There was a level of status associated with these things that my family did not have. From the ages of twelve to eighteen, my mother moved my brother and I into nine different houses or apartments. Because of this, I always had difficulty understanding what the feeling of “home” really felt like. I always had anxiety about whether or not we would have somewhere to live. I remember being 8 or 9 and packing a back pack with clothes and ten dollars I had just in case we were kicked out of our house. I always felt like I was at a disadvantage not having the stability of a home or the stability of supportive parents. I understand these feelings differently now that I am an adult. Moving every few months taught me not to complain when things become difficult. I learned efficiency and to move quickly to reach an end goal. Through the struggles of my mother, I learned to embrace education and seek it out. I never wanted to struggle in the ways she did and I continue to seek out stability.

A part of growing up for me was realizing these things made me different than everyone else, being poor was one thing, but I didn’t realize how much more difficult it was for my brother and how that would affect my growing up. When I was 6 years old I was thrilled to be getting a baby brother—it felt like I had been asking my mom for years and she finally heard me. Dylan was sweet as a little boy, very sensitive and always wanted hugs. I was a typical older sister—I’d show him the ropes but never forget to pick on him when the opportunity presented itself. Dylan’s father is African-American and he was also more of a father to me than my own had been; his race wasn’t something that was ever brought to my attention. As an older sister, I felt it was my duty to protect my brother and when we were younger I always did. My friends would make fun of me in elementary school because my brother was not the same color as me. Distant relatives at holiday gatherings always turned their noses up at Dylan and I noticed. I had more aunts, uncles, cousins than I could count that I developed a strong distaste for due to their clear disproval to my brother and mother. In high school, people would use terms like “ghetto” or “hood rat” to describe him; people would make racially charged jokes at school I didn't think were funny and put me at odds with friends--but I didn’t care. I learned to say no to that behavior and speak up rather than fit in. In college, people would be condescending in their thoughts—letting me know how wonderful it was to have an ethnic family member, honestly something that was akin to hearing nails on a chalk board. The white savoir complex was alive in their voices and I hated hearing it for him. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I learned he had been expelled from his high school for getting into a fight with another student. I remember being so angry at him thinking about how stupid that decision was. The Dylan I knew was a little boy who loved hugs. I later found out he got into a fight because that student placed a photo of a lynching scene on his locker and that same day screamed a racial slur at him in the hall way. Now, I was angry because he was expelled while the other student was not. The level of protection as an older sister increased in a way I had never experienced before. I felt powerless in all of this—I could not imagine how he felt. For our entire lives we always knew we looked different, people always let us know, but this time it hurt. I cannot speak on his experience, because it was his own—but it affected me in a way that made me want to take action. On so many occasions, I’d find myself feeling angry for him about being treated unfairly—crying because people were mean to him and would throw racial insults his way. As a child, he should have never had to deal with this type of behavior. As an adult, I worry for his life. In watching my brother be subject to racism, I learned when you have a voice that can speak up against wrong doing—you use it. His experiences have permeated with me and my desire to seek justice.

I look back now and I am grateful for the adversity I was exposed to growing up. I am grateful to have been exposed to things like poverty and racism so I do not have the luxury to deny that they exist in our society. Growing up the way I did made me who I am today. I take pride in the fact that I have been able to become college educated, an Army Officer, and earn a living in Los Angeles all by learning how to adapt to what I was given. I learned to set goals for myself and push myself to achieve them. I learned to recognize discrimination even if it masked by a veil kindness. However, not everyone has the ability to do these things and I realize that more often than not oppression can destroy a person’s self-esteem. I am lucky to have had positive role models in my life to push me as hard as they did to elevate myself and now I believe it is time for me to give back. I have always had an insatiable desire to fight for people and to speak out when I see an abuse of power. For me, this is not only about a fulfilling career but it is extremely personal. I want to provide a voice for the teenage mothers who aren’t ready to be mothers; I want to protect the rights of the wrongly accused, and I want to push as hard as I can to do right for people.

Diversity Statement:

Fast feet, slow hands, and far sight focus; three simple and separate concepts. I remember the first time I tried to hold a Blackhawk helicopter at a ten foot hover how tense my body was and how oversaturated my mind was trying to master these three simple concepts. My right hand would go left and the helicopter would go right. My right foot would apply too much pressure on the pedals sending my Instructor and I into left tail spin. To fly a twenty thousand pound machine whose blades spin at 460 rotations per minute can be both humbling and empowering. I knew the day the Army selected me to become a Medevac pilot I would be facing challenges that I never encountered before, however the level of honor I felt to serve in a capacity that allowed me to help people in their most trying hours was something that would always outweigh the difficulties I would face.

Following an initial enlistment as a cook in the Army, I made the transition to Cadet in my university’s Army ROTC program where I would earn a commission as an Officer upon graduation. I excelled in ROTC; continuously placing at the top of my class in physical fitness and leadership evaluations. I earned the opportunity to attend and complete the Army’s Airborne school—an achievement only one Cadet per year was able to do. When I was assessed for commissioning, I placed 1st out of 256 other Cadets in my assessment course. I worked hard and it paid off for me. Through all of this I was able to earn a slot in the Army’s Aeromedical Evacuation Course. This meant that the Army would trust me to attend flight school once I graduated college and allow me to fulfill a mission I had my heart set on for years. The medevac mission is unique. The Army is full of Blackhawk pilots—but this was different; Medevac means being selfless. It means that everytime I start my helicopter and take off within 15 minutes—I am dedicated and unhesitating in my actions and my entire mission is based on saving lives.

When I began flight school I had a very open mind knowing that I was about to be pushed out of my comfort zone, but what I did not realize is how hard I would be pushed. Prior to this, the Army was always pushing my mental and physical boundaries, but aerodynamics and flight fundamentals were a different beast. For the first time in my Army career, I was not the best. Admittedly, it hurt my ego but I grew to embrace the situation as a humbling experience. Each day we would be pushed to stand in front of our peers reciting information about our aircraft from an operator’s manual verbatim. It was new material coupled with rote memorization which were things that seemed foreign to me. I had to learn the mechanics of an engine and how hydraulics functioned; I had to understand what would happen to me and my aircraft if winds and air density were different than a standard day; I had to become an expert in something I knew nothing about in a limited amount of time and this was something I eventually realized I loved. Finally, I was being challenged in a way the army had not done before. Not only did I need to learn my aircraft, but I needed to learn the laws that governed the air. I was pushed but I kept on, knowing what my purpose was when I got through it all.

Subject matter was one challenge I could cope with but the culture of Army aviation was another. Since its inception the Army has been a beauraucratic organization dominated by a predominantly male leadership force. Couple this with the fact that aviation in itself is a male dominated industry, you have the perfect recipe to breed systemic sexism. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the liberal bubble of the northeast where I was blissfully unaware of how harmful sexism could be to a woman. I will always appreciate how the environment I grew up in molded my views of the world and diversity and I will always be confused how the military is so resistant to this perspective. The discrimination at flight school was anything but subtle—I was one woman in a class of over 30 men, surrounded by men instructors in the classroom and the cockpit. Questions about new material were often considered to be questions of their authority and misunderstanding new concepts was always a way for them to validate their belief that women did not need to be pilots. There was nothing that tore me apart more than watching as my male “stick buddy” (colloquial term for student co-pilot) would be praised for making mistakes and asking questions, while I would be put down and told over and over again that I just wasn’t getting it. Time after time I’d receive equivalent or higher grades on written tests and evaluations but be asked in a confused manner “why did you pick aviation?” like I didn’t belong. My classmates would be addressed as their rank, as is customary, “First Lieutenant Jordan,” while I was always referred to as “Miss Powers.” Instead of asking me about myself, I’d get asked “what’s your husband do?” or “Is your husband happy about this?” a funny question in itself seeing as I was unmarried and am a lesbian. But this is pervasive of the Army culture—women are not allowed to have agency unless a man gives it to them or blesses them with their approval. Even then you will hear the classic, micro-aggressive “you fly pretty well for a girl,” as if my womanhood was such an obstacle I would not be able to possibly fly an aircraft.

Despite the challenges faced in my journey to become a medevac pilot, I never viewed them as such. I viewed them as opportunity. How lucky was I to be able to learn a craft that other people desire but cannot make a reality? The material was undoubtedly an immense challenge for me but I saw it as a way to develop my brain in a way I otherwise would not have done. Two years ago, I could have never held a conversation about engines or theory of flight, today I am well-versed and can explain these once complicated topics in a simple way so others can understand. The structure of flight school was something that made me understand accountability of my own choice of words—though at the time I hated reciting information in front of my peers—it created a deeper understanding for me on the importance of accuracy in the job I was to perform.

There were plenty of times that I felt sorry for myself throughout the learning process—but it was the comments of my peers and instructors, the discouragement that always came with being a woman that was the toughest obstacle for me. This was not something I viewed as opportunity, but I did learn from it. I learned that it made me stronger as a woman in a male dominated force. I have thicker skin because of it and I know how to fight harder for myself, and all women, than I knew before. IN all, I gained a keener sense of emotional intelligence and self-awareness than my male peers. For them, a temper tantrum in the cockpit was showing passion for their work—for me, it was an overly emotional reaction to something small or a safety hazard. I was able to learn to identify these things and not internalize them, but gain a new understanding of who I was and appreciate what I was doing for myself.

By the time you learn to hover a Blackhawk helicopter you have much more to master. That aircraft is something that represents more than just a job to me; it is even beyond the very important mission to me. It represents a version of myself that I was able to develop through diligence and constant persistence. It took experience and time, but what I gained from becoming an Army aviator is something that has improved my own self-worth and taught me that constantly seeking challenge can improve

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