Emily Blackwelder, 17
From Westfield High School, Westfield, Massachusetts
Traveled to Las Tablas, Panama

My comic explores the ways that I learned to be vulnerable through my experience in Panama. The panels cycle through back to the beginning, in a never-ending story, similar to the never-ending life lessons about vulnerability. Much like my sense of self transforms when I open up to others, the paper transforms into the flower, then a combined symbol of vulnerability and sharing, to the sun, and back into a piece of paper which is shared with someone else who takes it back through the same journey. Before Global Glimpse, I never shared the pages of my sketchbook, which is a sort of visual-diary where I sort through all of my feelings and struggles. However, through the support of my Global Glimpse leaders and peers, I gained enough confidence to do so as my initiation for leader of the day. I had only planned to share one simple drawing, but when it reached the hands of my program coordinator, Nathan, and my roommate Michelle, they began to flip through the pages. While I mentally prepared myself for the cultural differences, language gap, and the humid heat of Panama, I had not prepared to open myself up so much to the other students on my trip. This small act of sharing my artwork continues to inspire me – when I worry about sharing my ideas in class or about someone seeing my sketchbook, I push myself out of my comfort zone because I now know that others appreciate and respect what I have to say and how I feel. Not only does sharing my vulnerabilities bring unexpected joys, but I also now feel that I have the power to encourage others to open up, whether in that moment or in a later moment in their life. Being a leader isn’t just about directing others, but about leading by example. Good leaders must connect with those who they are leading and must build trust within their group – which begins with vulnerability.