Battling Inequity for Life: Luce Leader Travels, Reflects

Madison, WI.  In January of this year, I was recognized by the James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation as one of two Luce Leaders for the year 2014—an award reserved for young individuals trying to make a difference on a global level (link). For this reason, it seemed only fitting that I was unable to attend the ceremony, as I was studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.  My mother flew out to New York City to accept the award on my behalf, and I submitted a video acceptance speech that was played that evening. The other Luce Leader, Joey Lowenstein, was in attendance, accepting his award beside his mother, Roberta (link).

1554464_10203447085326578_455901491_nAttending match between Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid with a friend.
Photo courtesy of author.

My past work with the J. Luce Foundation has included an organized canned food and clean towel drive in my hometown to send to orphans in Haiti after the earthquake struck in 2010 and a humanitarian award recognizing me for this work, previous entries in The Stewardship Report, and meetings in New York with Jim and his great team – all in an effort to help others.

Renting a boat in Madrid’s “Parque de Retiro.” Photo courtesy of author.

My life after being named a Luce Leader has been filled with ups and ups. I feel like I have seen the world—literally—after traveling across Europe. I lived in Madrid for five months, making trips within Spain to Sevilla, Toledo (twice), Segovia and Granada, and outside of Spain, I traveled with friends to Rome, London, Amsterdam, Prague, Athens, Santorini, and most of southern Germany. I became fluent in Spanish, a skill that I hope to exercise in the future, and held two positions as an English tutor for underprivileged children in Madrid. I have also begun applying to law schools, and, perhaps most noteworthy, am being considered for a position at Teach for America—a program where young people become teachers in low-income communities in an effort to eliminate educational inequity.

Graduation ceremony from La Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
Photo courtesy of author.

Throughout my life, I have always put two things ahead of most: working with children, and helping those less fortunate. My work as a camp counselor at Camp Ojibwa for the past five years has helped to instill an already vibrant passion for working with children.

The author, middle, with friends in Athens. Photo courtesy of author.

The author, right, with friends in Greece. Photo courtesy of author.

My job there has showed me how rewarding helping children is. The aforementioned work that I have done with Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) has helped bridge these two passions of mine in a fine way. When I make these decisions to work with institutions like these, often times they seem involuntary. What I mean is that they feel natural, normal, expected. Working with people less fortunate, and working with children are, to me, building sturdy bridges to the future. The next logical step in my life is naturally to combine these two, to add on to the bridge, at Teach for America.

With friends in Europe. Photo courtesy of author.

What I have been afforded is never lost on me, and the opportunities that I have seen since working with Jim and his foundation seem clearer to me than ever before. The work that I have done with Jim’s foundation, specifically through Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW), has been rewarding for many reasons, but the most important one, from what I can tell, has yet to manifest itself.

The students gathered from across the U.S. in Madrid – none knew each other.
Months later they gathered as old friends for a reunion at UW-Madison.

My goal is to work and devote my efforts, but the key is to continue working and to never stop. Only through constant work will progress be shown, and only through this progress will the reward of helping matter. All of the work that I have done, all of the time that my family and I have devoted to helping causes like this, is very important to me. What I have learned this year is that across the world, at all levels, there is needless inequity. There are people and organizations that help to combat this, and through their efforts, we will to see a difference.

The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, Inc. presents annual Luce Leadership Awards to young leaders working to better humanity, either in the U.S. or abroad who embody the characteristics of honor, intelligence, benevolence and integrity.




  • Auguste Jean Fédris, President, Association Pour Secourir les Victimes, Haiti
  • Bill Tenda, Executive Director, Orphans International Worldwide Indonesia

J. Luce Foundation Honorable Mention was given in 2012 to Eric Niragira, an ex-child soldier from Burundi who founded a training center for development of ex-combatants known as CEDAC , in 2011 to Ranjan Kumar, founder and president of the Gyanjyoti Rural Development Welfare Trust in Bihar, India; in 2010 to Jin In, founding director of 4Girls GLocal Leadership — Inspiring Girls, Transforming the World; and in 2009 to Omar Ghraieb, freelance journalist in Palestine.

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Author Jesse Pollans is from Highland Park, Ill. and currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He writes for The Daily Cardinal, a student newspaper on campus. In his free time, Jesse enjoys running, playing basketball, and reading.

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