At 17, I was in my senior year of the Sacred Heart School of Montreal where I wore a uniform every day, studied things like advanced chemistry and physics, performed in lead roles in school plays, lead a group of peers as Head of Shelton House, sang in the school choir, and led my team to the provincial championships as captain of my school's soccer team.
While I worked in the summers as a lifeguard, my parents did not want us to work during the school year so that I could focus on academics, extra-curricular activities, and sports. To get my lifeguard certification, my parents had to enroll me, shuttle me, and pay for years of swimming lessons and ultimately for my lifeguard certification (which I failed twice FYI, but third time’s the charm!)
I found out at 17 that I had been admitted to the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire which I only knew about because my father was a teacher at a private school and was able to go because I qualified for full financial aid. To get financial aid, my parents had to meticulously follow a complex application process and produce solid financial documentation.
I lived with my two parents and three siblings in a house that my parents owned and had all of the comforts of living that I took for granted like food, clothes, transportation, and heat.
I had many friends to talk to and do things with who were all on similar paths in life.
While at the time I would never have thought my life was easy, as an adult, I am aware that I grew up in so much privilege and that the stories of many 17-year-olds do not sound like mine.
I wouldn’t have done well academically and couldn’t have played sports if I had to take a job after school and on weekends to help pay my family’s expenses.
I worked summers as a lifeguard which was a well-paid and comfortable summer job because my parents had the time and money to take me to swimming lessons and enroll me in lifeguard certification classes not once but three times.
I wouldn’t even have known to apply to a boarding school if it hadn't been for my father and I wouldn’t have qualified for financial aid if my parents didn’t know how to fill out the forms or keep financial records. I couldn’t have gone to boarding school if my parents didn’t have a car or couldn’t take the time off to make the 4 hour drive there a few times a year or if I had young siblings to take care after school while my parents worked. And to that point, I lived with two healthy and capable parents so that they could both reliably share parenting duties and spread the load of raising four children while little to none of their parenting duties fell on me.
Lastly, with my pale skin, blue eyes and blonde hair, the world welcomed me with open arms, assumed I was trustworthy and competent, and gave me the benefit of the doubt when I needed it.
I would like to invite you to take a few minutes of your life to experience a very special game that we developed with the great minds at Bellwether Education Partners that will allow you to experience life as an underserved 17-year-old. In this experience, you are challenged to make choices about your time, focus, and energy when your everyday demands are so high and your choices are so limited.
Out of all of the things that games can be designed to do, I'm personally drawn to games that make me feel. It's a different kind of experience than watching a movie or reading a book because games often put you IN the experience and give you agency to make choices that impact your outcomes. One of the things I find really powerful about the games is that each of the choices presented in the game were drawn from the lives of real high school students from across the country. By giving people like me the chance to experience these underserved youth’s lives and feel what it’s like to make the hard choices they are faced with everyday, I hope that we start to create a world that is more tolerant, more helpful, and ultimately serves all of its inhabitants.