A Firsthand Experience with the Butterfly Effect of Kindness

July 12, 2021

Sophie Szew (she/her/hers) is a first generation Jewish Latina mental health warrior from Los Angeles who is passionate about advocacy and social justice. Since recovering from an eating disorder in 2019, her writing has been published in a number of outlets, including FEAST, the Dillydoun Review, Channel Kindness, Jewtina y Co, and Detester Magazine, among others. She was also the inaugural poet to the Mayor of Beverly Hills. She is passionate about her Latina roots and founded the Youth Latinx Leadership Conference, a student-run organization that connects Latinx student leaders to the resources to succeed as future changemakers. She was able to help connect over 500 foster families to undocumented and unaccompanied child immigrants. She also spends her time bringing awareness to issues that affect BIPOC communities through her role as a Young Mental Health Leader with Mental Health America and her internship with the U.S. House of Representatives!

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In early February of 2021, I sat down on a zoom call with my dear friend Hannah to discuss a potential collaboration between both of our school’s Latinx Student Unions. We both were ambitious high schoolers in our first year at the helm of our respective school’s Latinx culture clubs, but we had no idea that within the next few months, we would both become co-founders, CEOs, activists, and leaders of a massive organization—all thanks to the kindness of a community.

On that very zoom call, we decided to host a virtual conference in which students from both of our clubs can spend an hour or so together chatting about the issues in our communities that mattered to us. We thought: “why not invite a few other Latinx-based clubs from schools nearby to join in for a more diverse conversation? And while we’re at it, why not invite a few of our friends in college to speak about Latinidad beyond high school?” So, we reached out to a few other high school Latinx club presidents and to some Latinx college students, who responded with an outpouring of kindness and support for our event. And that right there was the beginning of a chain reaction of kindness that not only changed both of our lives, but also eventually saved the lives of countless children.

Empowered by the responses of the student leaders we reached out to, Hannah and I decided to go bigger. We started to reach out to community leaders who made their names as Latinx professionals and entrepreneurs. As a mere high school senior, I would’ve never thought I’d have the courage to reach out to professionals such as the founders of Emile Learning Co., the SUMA Foundation, and Zone One Productions. But, with 40 or so fiercely passionate and kind students alongside me, the task did not seem so daunting. We were met with the same kindness and support we received when reaching out to our fellow students.

What these professionals did not know was that their kindness in helping a few high schoolers out with an event would continue to flame the wildfire of kindness. With the names of these successful companies behind me, I decided why stop there? Hannah and I were so inspired by the kindness of those we had reached out to so far, that we began to swing for the fences of Latinx Leadership. We cold-emailed national politicians such as Rep. Grace Napolitano and Sen. Alex Padilla with jolts of hope pulsing through our fingers as we typed.

My throat is still sore five months later from the screams of joy that escaped my throat as I read their responses. Of all the things I could’ve done with my second semester of senior year, I spent it planning the inaugural Youth Latinx Leadership Conference featuring some of the most renowned Latinx leaders and activists. The funny thing was that that was never my intention. Hannah and I had a typical, small-scale, everyday idea, and thanks entirely to the kindness of others, that idea blew up into a 12-hour, 200 person, massive conference.

But we were not done yet. The world had been so kind to us, that it would be unjust for us not to spread it further. We decided to partner with Nuevo Amanecer Latino Children’s Services (NALCS), an organization near and dear to me and my family. NALCS is an organization that works with Latinx Children Immigrants who crossed the southern border into the United States without documentation or adult supervision. Upon immigrating to the United States, my grandmother began working at NALCS as a social worker and case supervisor, and I began volunteering with them at the age of 12. We decided that all the media attention and proceeds from the conference would be used to benefit unaccompanied minors through NALCS.

Then, the kindness wildfire turned into a kindness inferno. I connected to news outlets with a pitch that went something like: “I am a high schooler who’s leading a conference benefiting Latinx youth as well children at the border. Let me know if you are interested.” The two news segments with Spectrum News One that ensued resulted in over five hundred families inquiring about fostering Latinx Children through NALCS.

Looking back, it seems quite unbelievable that the kindness of a couple of students can lead to over five hundred children possibly having a life in the United States, but when one looks at the little steps of kindness in between that led to more and more kindness, it all begins to make sense. That is, after all, how the world functions: you kindly smile at a stranger, and that stranger tips a waiter, and that waiter uses the money to buy someone a meal, and so on and so forth. However, it is not every day that someone sees the whole chain of kindness through from beginning to end. We all live our lives so focused on our own links in the chain that we often forget we are part of a chain at all. I hope my story stands as a reminder that all human beings are part of the wonderful chain of kindness, and that chances are, you have helped more people than you know. Take a second and celebrate that–you deserve it.

Support the Youth Latinx Leadership Conference through our Instagram: @latnix_leadership! You can also learn about NALCS + watch the interviews with Spectrum News One and NALCS here!

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