My name is Barrett Kaeb, and I am a first-year graduate student here at NIU. I just returned from the BAE Sports Summit in Belize, and would like to take a moment and say thank you for making this opportunity happen. This past week in Belize was one of the most surreal and most amazing trips of my life. Thank you for all the extra work you put in for this trip to happen. I would like to share with you some amazing things that happened on this trip, but also how this trip impacted me. I entered this trip with so much curiosity about myself, what I should be doing in the future, and about life outside of the United States. This trip impacted me in so many ways, but one of the strongest ways it impacted me was that it showed me how much I truly care about relationships.
In Belize, they focus on living in the moment, counting on one another and building on relationships. During my time in Belize, I have never felt more at home. I learned that my values matched those in Belize and how these new relationships inspired me to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Through the relationships I built in Belize, I had lots of face-to -face conversations and heard the first-hand struggles they face daily. I heard the pain in their voice and it showed me how privileged we are here and how important it is that we use our privilege to help others. Through this experience, I learned that someday I need to live in a country like Belize and my purpose on this earth is to fight for others who do not have the same opportunity as me. One of the things I was born to do was to build relationships and use those relationships not only to motivate myself, but to unite together, take action, and not let others down. I also learned how powerful people can be when we stand together, even when all the odds are stacked against us.
I would like to take time and thank NIU for this opportunity. First, thank you for allowing what I have described above to happen. As I stated before, I have been to several colleges, and have never been surrounded with such a supportive and caring community like the faculty here at NIU. The lengths that the professors will go to take care of their students and prepare them to be well-rounded individuals are truly unmatched. Thank you for setting us up for success. I am so proud to be a Huskie, and part of a program that is making a difference on a global level. Second, I would like to take a moment and let you know how truly amazing Dr. Jacobs has been throughout this process.
When I started graduate school last fall, I was not sure whether I would last more than one semester. Honestly, I have never enjoyed school. However, sitting in Dr. Jacobs’ class is when I realized this is exactly right where I am supposed to be. If not for Dr. Jacobs, and the amazing program here at NIU, I’m not sure I would have returned for another semester. Professors like Dr. Jacobs are truly making a difference in this world, and she believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Along with that, I am now considering furthering my education and pursuing a Ph.D. so I can continue to help fight against all the inequalities in this world.
This experience has brought me one step closer to becoming the best version of myself. Thank you for having teachers like her who can see the “diamond in the rough.” Dr. Jacobs is more than a professor, she is someone who truly gives her entire heart to her profession, and every day she represents NIU, it becomes a better university. The impact she has made, not only on me, but so many students is truly breathtaking. I hope someday we can all repay her for making this amazing change in the world. A change where girls aren’t just strong “for a girl,” but because they are strong as a person.
With all that being said, the biggest thing I would like to thank you for is the new members of my extended Belizean family. The friendships I built in Belize will last a lifetime, and truly have the power to make a difference in this world. Thank you for making that happen, as well as for helping me receive direction about my future and what I was born to do on this earth.