I have grown up my entire life living in West Roxbury. This has come with eye rolls and laughs throughout my school experience as the infamy of the Westie bubble gives it a nickname as a “glorified suburb”. However I would say that my experience in West Roxbury has not been a typical one. I grew up the youngest of three, son of two immigrants from Ireland. Through food, sport, and trips, the preservation of my heritage has always been important to my parents. As my educational studies started, it seemed to begin according to script as a young sheltered Justin attended a small sheltered parochial school; however it quickly changed as I transferred to a public school in Jamaica Plain. It was a completely different atmosphere and I had some trouble at first adjusting to the new surroundings.
This is when I first started picking up on the inequalities plaguing our city. Supplies like paper towels or soap in the bathrooms were not always guaranteed. Class field trips were sparser and bigger classrooms were more frequent. As I switched into Boston Latin School, the alumni certainly helped finance fields of education but areas of underfunding were still noticeable. Even as I returned home from school, I noticed five buses would return to my neighborhood, while equal sized neighborhoods only received one bus. These inequalities seemed rampant and unfair, yet I did not know who to protest it to. It was not the schools fault and it did not even personally affect me, so why bother?
While these public schools came with drawbacks, they were definitely worth it for the exposure they gave to me. These schools were a mixing pot of cultures and ethnicities. People from all walks of life passed me in the hallways. I was not as sheltered and unaware of my surroundings due to the exposure given to me through the atmosphere of my education. We all in theory had an equal opportunity to learn and grow as students and individuals. The concept of Boston Latin seemed like the hallmark for fairness, and I wondered why this model was not widespread in other areas of my life.
This is a major reason I am interested in public service. I believe public service is a form of understanding the complexities and vast array of problems very different people face daily. Through broad strokes on a blank canvas, the guiding hand of public service attempts to treat these arising issues. Therefore public service is only possible through exposure. My first internship related to public service began last year, as I interned at a clerk’s office at a courthouse. I sat in on bail hearings, court cases, even acted as a lawyer on a murder case during a mock trial. What I learned through this internship geared for exposure was that criminal justice was much broader and deeper than I had anticipated. My old idea of the criminal justice system was limited to episodes of Cops or Law and Order. However these lawyers and judges were in it for much more than “catching the bad guys”. They wanted to rehabilitate these citizens and promote a betterment of their community. I never would have grasped the thought process or motivation behind these people without the exposure of a summer internship. I was inspired to continue this betterment and engagement in my community, even on a small scale, with local sports, music programs, and school student government.
I want to be involved in public service because of what it entails. Public service gives me the greatest flexibility and capability for exposing myself to the world around me. I know it is not realistic to believe that you are going to “fix the world”, but involving yourself in public service at least gives you the tools to repair it a little.