After two gap years, Harvard student aims to build a life in service

Friday, March 29, 2019 - 16:20 in Psychology & Sociology

Kevin Ballen didn’t plan on taking two gap years. But he did intend to live a life less constrained by society’s expectations. “In high school, my goal was to shift civic engagement from transactional hour requirements to a meaningful, everyday opportunity to make ourselves and those around us better,” he said. The 20-year-old first-year, who lives in Holworthy Hall, described his early years of community action — volunteering every month at a homeless shelter — as rote. “It’s just what we did, because it was the right thing to do,” he recalled. But a single moment made him rethink his altruistic efforts. It happened outside a local supermarket at a fundraiser for a day care that served homeless children. At the last minute, student leaders were unable to attend and Ballen was put in charge. “It was a realization of agency and what was possible for a young person like me,” he said. “I...

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