Ethan (Hong Kong)

Cornell University


Hong Kong

The Community Organizer

Crossroads Group, a partner organization that provides writing assistance to students in Hong Kong, introduced us to Ethan when he was a high school freshman. He was a serious student in school and a member of the Boy Scouts outside of school. He had an opportunity to travel to Nepal with the Boy Scouts to work on a Habitat for Humanity build. The work was tough, dirty, and not at all what he expected, but he had a great trip leader who sat the scouts down when they began complaining and explained the significance of their work for the village. His leader’s words had an enormous impact on Ethan.

Ethan returned to school eager to join his school’s Habitat for Humanity Club. He expected weekly builds and trips but soon discovered the Club was mostly focused on fundraising. He advocated for trips knowing they would help build new membership. He used their Halloween Haunted House and Christmas Gingerbread House fundraisers to educate younger Club members about the real mission of Habitat for Humanity. Ethan finally convinced the Club to fund a trip to Cambodia and will lead this year’s trip to Indonesia. Ethan also chose to join his school’s annual service trips, traveling to India, Vietnam, and the Himalayas over the course of his sophomore, junior, and senior years. These trips exposed him to the realities of extreme poverty and social injustice.

Back in Hong Kong, Ethan worked toward his Eagle Scout rank. His Eagle project was to build a supply room for a local orphanage. He decided to stay with the Scouts to mentor younger members after achieving his Eagle. It seemed Ethan was committed to improving the lives of others in every way possible.

During the nearly four years we worked with Ethan, we helped him plan numerous college visits. As his passion for community service became evident, we recommended Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, whose mission is “to improve lives by exploring and shaping human connections to natural, social, and built environments.” Ethan and his father traveled to Ithaca almost as an afterthought, but Ethan’s identity is so grounded in service that we weren’t surprised he fell in love with Cornell.

Ethan worked hard on his application and The Short List made sure every word connected the dots of his story. He also wrote a supplement so clearly directed to the College of Human Ecology that we weren’t surprised when he received a Cornell Early Decision acceptance. Sometimes a school is better because of a student, and sometimes a student is better because of the school. In Ethan’s case, we believe both will be true, and the world will also be better as a result.

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