Off Next few Days

Hi guys. I will be taking a break the next few days because I will be super busy at work and with friends, so here is an essay to keep you all interested. This was my common application for college.


I read Hamlet while you were tying your shoes.

I grew up on a 12-acre farm in Gaston, Oregon, an hour away from Portland. My brother and I spent our free time in the forests with a neighborhood band of children. Together we invented a myriad of games and played them in the creeks and blackberry jungles behind our house.

Everyone loved these games, almost as much as they looked forward to their fifth birthday. On this day, parents in the neighborhood gifted their sons and daughters a pair of tied shoes. This rite of passage was a big part of growing up, trading in Crocs and Velcro for laces.

I dreaded my fifth birthday. When we played our games, I laughed when my older friends tripped over their laces or when they lost a game of tag because they were tying their shoes. My brown faux leather Velcro sneakers compensated for my lack of athleticism. I never had to stop and retie my feet.

When I opened up a shoe box on my birthday, the ugly laces stared me down. I closed my new shoes and stuffed them in the back of my closet. I chose Velcro.

The average person spends one minute a day tying their shoes. I tied my first shoe when I was 14-years-old. This means my friends spent 55 hours of their life on something I never did. I like to think this time allowed me to do things many of my friends didn’t, like read Shakespeare’s canon by age 13.

In a world of “lace thinkers,” I am a “Velcro thinker.” “Lace thinkers” are people who accept their reality and follow a predetermined path. “Velcro thinkers” question the rules society gives them by challenging the status quo. 

Velcro leaves its mark on everything I do. When I saw issues that were not being talked about in the school newspaper, I created my own newspaper which now attracts hundreds of views a week. When I saw the horrors of gun violence in high schools just like mine, I met with Oregon’s Governor to discuss legislation that would reduce school shootings. 

And when soup kitchens in the City of Portland were wasting money and food, I ‘Velcroed’ the problem and found a better way to serve. 

As a sophomore, I started a nonprofit called CardsCook –– a venue for students to cook gourmet meals for homeless youth. We were a year and a half into this project when we came across a problem that many soup kitchens in Portland deal with: food waste. Because it is impossible to predict turnout on a given day, 40% of the food that shelters cook goes uneaten. While this is wasteful and counterproductive, the community didn’t seek a solution. 

So I found one in calculus class. When my teacher assigned a math-based research essay, I looked for an innovative solution to a problem the city had accepted. 

I spent months collecting data, counting the number of meals CardsCook served, and recording the temperature outside at the time of service. I used calculus to model a relationship between these variables. From this, I developed an algorithm which used the weather forecast on a given night to project attendance. We were now able to closely predict turnout several days before we purchased the ingredients. The algorithm lowered food costs and waste, which made it possible for us to serve 20,000 meals in three years. It also caused other shelters to reexamine their food waste, and led to CardsCook being selected as one of three proposals to improve homelessness in Portland. 

“Velcro thinking” isn’t about having all the answers. It’s about thinking and seeing things in ways people rarely do.

I never won tag because I was the fastest kid. When I won, it was because someone else stopped to tie their shoes. 

 

 

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