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By Charlotte Rothman Gallant

This essay was written by Charlotte Rothman Gallant when she was applying to college.


My family has raised me with a set of principles that have guided my life since before I can remember. They have taught me the importance of love, generosity, self-reliance, empathy, motivation, confidence and supportiveness. These things are all extremely important to me, and having these principles as a basis for my life has taught me to be the person I am today.

I’ve had two beds in my room since I was about five years old—exchange students, family members, and people who just need a place to sleep have all cycled through this spare bed. This was probably the most important aspect of my childhood. Learning to see life through the eyes of my 90 year old grandfather’s eyes, of a 16 year old Vietnamese boy, and a 20 year old homeless girl, I’ve learned more about support, love, and empathy than most people can imagine. Seeing how an abused woman can change into a successful individual taught me the importance of both self-reliance and support in an individual’s life, and seeing how my parents endlessly and selflessly cared for every person who passed through my house’s front door showed me unparalleled generosity. Seeing all of these things in action since before I can even clearly remember has impacted every aspect of being, to this very day.

This past summer, my friend Tori moved in. Her parents had just moved a couple of hours away, and Tori wanted to see her friends and work in her hometown the summer before she left for college. When she started worrying about it, I talked to my parents, and Tori moved in. All of my friends told me I was crazy for offering; after all, I’d just gotten the room back all to myself. It never occurred to me that it would be strange to offer a friend a bed to stay in when they didn’t have one. I was raised in a household where you give everything you can, whenever you can, and I was so used to this principle that I had started doing it. All I thought about when I offered Tori my room was that it must absolutely suck having to move away over the summer, and not having anyone there to help you get ready for your first year of college. The empathy I’d always been taught to feel was engrained in my brain, and I was ready to do exactly what my parents had always done—be generous, be supportive, and give love to those who need it. Without the parents I was raised with, I never would have become the person I am today, and Tori would still be living with her parents and not seen her friends before she left for college.

Now, I don’t want to leave you with the false impression that my parents only taught me how to love other people. My parents taught me more than that. They taught me how to love myself, and to learn more about what I love. They taught me self-reliance, confidence, and independence. Since I was old enough to understand the lessons they taught me, I have learned to enjoy others company without depending on it, and I have learned how to push myself to do what I need to do. My parents’ lessons in self-reliance explain why I have two jobs and take classes at the community college. Their showing me how to motivate myself has led me to work hard in school and in the community and constantly strive to be better. The confidence I’ve gained as I grew up has led me to become a Section Leader in marching band and a Captain for my indoor guard, and the independence my parents taught me to have has let me develop interests far from those of my peers, such as a habit of attending international affairs lectures in DC in my spare time.

All of these principles have made me the person I am today, and I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to have had the chance to grow up in a family where these are the foundations of life.

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