Monday, August 1, 2016

An Imperfect Offering

Throughout the past six years, I have been a part of the selfless family that is Children's Global Alliance. Growing everyday, the CGA family exhibits an unprecedented amount of love, passion, and global awareness. Year after year they ignite a flame of empowerment to a new generation that will have an everlasting effect. 

As a member of CGA over those six years, I have had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of different people who praise Children’s Global Alliance, what we do, the gratefulness of CGA’s presence in our small valley and what CGA has done for our community. With that said, there are a few people that would say otherwise. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak to the few who stood against what Children's Global Alliance stands for, along with what we do. The more common arguments I came across were, "Well you abandon your community, there is plenty of volunteer work to be done here." Or the, "You're doing more harm than good" in which they support their argument by nearly quoting the article, '10 Reasons Why Your Two Week Service Trip Doesn't Mean Shit' word for word. But no argument stood out to me more than the one I heard last year before traveling to Bhaktapur, Nepal. Excited about my upcoming service trip to Nepal, I was describing what we were going to do to a teacher at my school. I said, "We are going to provide much needed structural relief work and educational aide for those in need. This teacher looked at me dead in the eyes and said, "Do you really think 4 teenagers and two female chaperones are going to make a difference?" The man continued arguing, "You can't change the world, you know." 

Well of course we can't. No one can. The fact of the matter is we live in an imperfect world. It was imperfect before we got here and it will be imperfect long after we are gone. 

Bad things will always happen to good people. Natural disasters will continue to occur. Poverty will always exist. For every deadly disease that we cure, another will spread like a wildfire. The world has been imperfect long before we were here and it will continue to be imperfect long after we are gone. That's just the way it is. 

So what's the point? If the world will always be imperfect then why bother trying to fix it?

That is similar to saying we, as humans know that no one is perfect, therefore, we will never be perfect. So what's the point in working on ourselves? 

We work on ourselves not to be perfect but to be the best versions of ourselves. 

Much like how every sports team knows there is no such thing as the perfect season,  they practice anyway. They put hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears giving everything they have into practice. Not to be perfect, but to be the closest thing to perfection. 

The same holds true with Children's Global Alliance. Much like a team, CGA has its coaches: Lisa-Marie, Karlie, Jen, Krissy, Kristina etc. As well as our players: the student volunteers. Of course we have our opponent: injustice. Similar to the many opponents a sports team faces, injustice comes in many different colors, shapes and forms. Like poverty, abuse, or an inadequate education. Together we work to challenge our opponent. Of course we could not do this by ourselves. Thankfully, our coaches have taught us a few strategies to do so:  

1) Be Selfless 
-To put the wants and needs of others before your own. Whether it's food, water, education, love or baby wipes. 

2) Be Passionate
-To live each day with the energy and liveliness as if it was your last, but with the wisdom as if you are going to live forever. 

3) Love Others Without Fear
-To open your heart to everyone without hesitating about it being broken. 

4) Live In The Moment
-To not let life's smallest and sometimes biggest problems take away from your time here on earth. To put every ounce of energy into what is happening to you, right this second. 

5) Listen To The World
-To open your ears and listen to the cries and worries of the world and act upon them. To not just co-exist but to live together in peace and harmony. 

We give, teach, help, repair, and love those in need not because we honestly think that we are changing the world, but because we know we are making it better.

 It's an imperfect offering to an imperfect world. 

Although it is imperfect, can you imagine a world in which everyday, every single person in the world put all of their energy into attacking the injustices of the world with love, passion and selflessness. 

I can. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Today Is Our Year

Today is our year. 

About 4 years ago Battle Mountain High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team was preparing themselves for one of the biggest games of the year against their arch rivals, Aspen. Needless to say emotions were high, voices were powerful, and everyone's attention couldn't be more focused. The locker room was filled with "Let's go boys!” And, “Here we go dogs!” But suddenly everyone's attention shifted when Mac Kelsall screamed, "Yea! Today is our year!" It was shortly followed by laughter, a few confusing looks and a couple of face palms. 

Year after year we would remind each other about that time Mac yelled, "Today is our year!" It was fun, it always sparked a few laughs, and it made everyone smile. 

The sad part is that it took his passing, a trip around the world, and the introduction to a few new people in order for me to truly understand the complex meaning of what Mac said that day. 

Two days ago, on Friday July 22nd in Aruaha, Tanzania, Madame Lillian, a few other CGA students and I had the remarkable opportunity to meet Ebenezer and Enoch's family. The mother, also named Lillian is 37 years old, and lives and cares for her two sons, Ebenezer 12 and Enoch 10. Despite being blind, having no structured income, owning a house hardly big enough to fit a bed in, this past year she fought for the custody of her two children. She cooks for them, she cleans, and she cares for them completely on her own. I asked, "What gets you through each day?" She replied softly, "Prayer." She elaborated saying that even though each meal she has for her sons is dependent on the generosity of their neighbors, even though she cannot see with her own eyes if they look dirty and presentable before school, even though their academic sponsor has stopped paying for uniforms and book supplies, the Lord still listens. 

Compelled by her beautiful smile that came along with her heartbreaking story, Madame Lillian requested we pray in her name. Everyone agreed, so we bowed our heads while Madame Lillian prayed. I couldn't understand a word she said but her passionate voice electrified the room with such power it caused every hair on the back of my neck to stand straight up. 

Shortly after, I asked Madame Lillian what exactly she prayed for. She replied saying that she asked God to answer. She continued, explaining that this woman (Lillian) lives each day with the passion and devotion as if it was her last, but has the love to do it day after day, year after year. 

I finally understood what Mac meant. He was trying to tell us that today is the day in which we dedicate a new level of passion and devotion in our lives that will be so powerful, so infectious, we will continue to do it every single day, until, at the end of the year, we are finally satisfied with what we have done. 

Mac lived his life that way, each day, bringing a whole new perception of the saying, "Live each day like it was your last."

We must learn from Mac and Lillian and apply it to our own lives. Whether it is the challenge of being blind and raising a family or the joy in playing in the great outdoors, each day we need to instill a level of passion and devotion in our lives until it becomes so ingrained in us that we are not only content but fulfilled with our lives. 

Guys, today is our year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Wow, I can’t believe it, here I am, two years later. I’m home.

It’s funny, a few months ago, it finally hit me that I was going back. When it hit me, my heart would race, my stomach would drop, my palms would sweat and my mind would race, asking myself questions like, “Will anyone remember me?” or “What if I get there and no one recognizes me?”

However, two days ago when we were headed to our first day at LOAMO my heartbeat was steady, my palms were dry, and my head had achieved this state of tranquility that I had no idea existed. It was like my body knew, I was on my way home.

Before the van was even put in park I jumped out running. I was shortly greeted by a sea of hugs. The kind of hugs you clench the other person so hard, because the thought of losing them from your grip it makes your heart sink.

After a more than warming welcoming, I got a chance to settle in. I was eager to get to work, but at the same time I wanted to see what has changed over the past two years. At first glance I thought nothing had changed. Mr. Kimaro’s handshake was still firm yet generous, Madame Mary’s smile was still beautiful and contagious, baby class was still drop dead adorable, Madame Happiness still scares me, and the students still exhibit an incomparable drive, value, and love for their education. Really the only thing that had changed was a new coat of paint, some new uniforms, and a few new faces. At the time I didn’t think much of it. In fact, seeing these new faces kind of bummed me out. These new faces replaced some of the old staff the I thought was irreplaceable.

That was until I met Mr. Mallison, one of the few new faces. After sitting in on one of his math lessons, I was completely dumbfounded by his passion and enthusiasm that he displayed in class. It was completely unlike anything I have ever seen in the classroom. I had a hunch he wasn’t that passionate about adding and subtracting mixed integers. So I asked him, “Why do you teach?” Contrary to the typical response, “Well I don’t do it for the money.” He Replied softly, looking me dead in the eye saying, “The one who gives, receives more than what they are giving.” He continued saying, “I give students the knowledge they need to pass class 6 math. But they give me the knowledge to succeed in life. They teach me more than I have ever taught them.

I sat back, dreaming of a world in which every day I go to work I am not only happy but I am receiving a lifetime worth of lessons in return. If I am ever so lucky to accomplish that I will be forever grateful. I hope that if I continue to strive, like Mr. Mallison, that dream will come true.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Best Thing You Can Ever Give

She takes a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Her heart is pounding at a rate so fast it feels like it’s going to burst out of her chest. I stand there, biting my lip, fists gripped; hoping, praying everything goes as planned. She takes a deep breath in… This is her moment. One more breath out, she finally speaks, “I read my story.” 50 kids erupt with excitement! Jumping up and down chanting her name, “Yass-mine! Yass-mine! Yass-mine!” She did it. Her excitement and her satisfaction was fueled by that of her classmates and her competitors.

This was the scene during yesterday’s Vocabulary Competition. Such a simple sentence, such an electric reaction! I’ve never felt anything like it; not when we beat Aspen, not when Navy beat Yale in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse tournament, not even when the BMHS soccer team won state in 2012.
Within the Nichols family, if a TV was on it was almost always a sport. Sports Center, lacrosse, hockey football, hell even golf. When the home was empty you could almost guarantee we were either, skiing, playing lacrosse, surfing, or just about any other sport. Sports are my family’s passion, it’s the glue that keeps us all together. I’ve always said the best way to end a fight with the Nichols brothers is to go outside and play football, frisbee, bike, skateboard; you name it we will do it. I can’t imagine how different my life would if we didn’t have that passion for sports.
In the United States our passion and our energy is nearly entirely focused on athletics. It’s not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong I love watching the Denver Broncos win a Super Bowl. I’m eternally grateful for the relationships that have been formed through athletics. 

But here I am, college bound and the focus of my life isn’t on sports.

Here in Rabat, Morocco that energy that fixation, is centered entirely around education rather than sports. It’s gratifying to see someone celebrate the victory of a vocab competition with the same emotion and enthusiasm that Von Miller had when he sacked Cam Newton for a touchdown in Super bowl 50 (#gobroncos). It’s a foreign idea to think that someone would think this way about education, yet this is so common among Moroccan families.
For these students, passing the Baccalaureate exam is the equivalent to the NFL combine. Every year hundreds of athletes go in an attempt to display their talents. Their entire lives they have been committed to this moment. Every stride, every rep, every film session, every ounce of effort was dedicated to this moment. A moment of greatness.

The ability to achieve greatness in Morocco is tested by the Baccalaureate exam. Knowing English can be the key between failure and success. Every word they write, every book they read, every “t” they cross is dedicated to this test. This level of passion has no doubt been displayed in my classroom every day for the past two weeks. Even when they were going on only a few hours of sleep and empty stomachs, their minds were entirely focused on what they were learning in that moment. Each lesson was like a play aimed towards winning a game. Except this game was life. Everything I threw at them they analyzed and attacked with every ounce of energy and focus in their little bodies. And of course when they got it, when they nailed it, when it all went perfectly, they celebrate. They celebrated with more energy than I have ever seen any student-athlete celebrate with before. Including the 1987 Miami Hurricanes.

These students have completely changed the term, Student-Athlete.

A student-athlete is not someone who goes to class for 7 hours a day only itching to get out to hit someone. A student-athlete is an individual who comes to class ready to give the perfect effort. A student who embraces every minute of class, values their teachers, and their opportunities they have been given. We should be having banquets for our teachers, praising them for their hard work, dedication, and accountability. But instead we walk out the front door flipping off the very institution that gave us the greatest gift of all time. The gift of education. When we were leaving the school, 12 year old Halima, with a tear rolling down her eye, handed me a hand-written letter. In that letter she said, “Thank you for your help and efforts to teach us. You have given us the gift of learning.” I quickly read the letter, looked up at her gave her a hug and she said, “That is the best thing you can ever give.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Make Up YOUR Mind

Ah, April 1st; the only day of the year that people critically evaluate what is being told to them by the media before accepting them as true.

The media is a business and much like every  business it has a foundation of what sells. Unfortunately that foundation is fear. Fear sells. In the experienced words of Seth Morrison, people love to be scared. There is this concept of near-death riding that has become the basis for what is acceptable. If you’re not inches away from death, it’s not going to make the movie (The Ordinary Skier).

Sadly that conception of ‘fear sells’ is reflected in nearly every aspect of American media.

Don’t believe me?

I strongly encourage you to read an article that CNN posted titled, “Why They Hate Us” written by Fareed Zakaria. In the article Fareed writes, “Let’s be clear, while the Jihadis are few, there is a larger cancer in the world of Islam – a cancer of backwardness and extremism and intolerance." Well, I don’t know exactly which “world” Fareed is referring to, but here in the Islamic “world” of Morocco I have not found that to be the case.

Just yesterday, we went to a girl named Ghita’s house. Ghita is one of my students, she is smart, witty, and never late to class. While Ghita’s mom was attending to some unannounced guests, we had the chance to sit down with the small, but chatty aspiring agricultural engineer. She sat upright,  legs crossed; discretely critiquing her hijab, assuring herself that she looked presentable, while she waited eagerly to answer every question. After answering a few questions about her own life and her life at home, Ghita showed us an in-depth understanding about the importance of family that most girls her age would not comprehend. But it wasn’t until we started to talk about religion that Ghita showed us that she had wisdom and maturity far beyond her years.

With Ramadan literally right around the corner,  we asked Ghita what her favorite part of Ramadan is. Without hesitating she replied, “My favorite part of Ramadan is the unity. This is a month where every Muslim is equal. We all eat like the poor (fasting); we give like we are rich, and we pray more than ever before. It is in this month where we all experience true peace and tranquility.” Inspired by this profound answer from this basic question we eagerly asked another, “As a Muslim, if you could give everyone in the world advice, what would it be?” She sat back, thought about it for no more than two seconds, then leaned forward to answer. Although I don’t speak nearly any Arabic, just by looking at the way she talked about it was not only inspiring but assuring. She spoke with passion and confidence in a way that when you looked into her eyes you truly believed she was thinking about the greater good of everyone in the entire world. Once she finished I eagerly awaited to the translation from our translator Icabel. But once she stopped speaking, Icabel had to take a second to herself because she was getting chills from Ghita’s answer. Icabel translated saying, “She would tell the world to stop judging. She thinks that everyone thinks they are better than one another, trying to critique and change them. We have forgotten that we are all human, we are all the same. We do not have that right to judge others on the way we view our life. Only God has the right to judge. It is our job as humans to unite together so that before god judges us all, we can live in peace.” Wow, I too had chills running down my back. But it wasn’t the type of chills that would spark a revolution. These were different. They were the chills that provided me with assurance and a new faith in humanity. But they were also chills of guilt and disgust.

After leaving Ghita’s house I kept thinking about this quote said by the great Muhammad Ali. He said, “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam.” While that may be true, we as Americans have alienated ourselves from a beautiful and powerful group of people that brings peace and tranquility. We are blinded by our fear that was created by our ignorance.

I challenge you, tell me which world has, “a cancer of backwardness” of extremism and intolerance?

Is it a “world” in which Donald Trump is president? Or is it a “world” whose leader said, “We continue to receive refugees at a rapid pace, whether they come from East Africa or the Middle East. Our only concern beyond the humanitarian aspects to which we obviously sensitive, is purely securitarian.”

Stop listening to the reports about the one percent of Muslisms who are extremists. Stop listening to lies. Start listening to those who put the humanity of the world before their own safety. Start listening to the Muslims, because we have a lot to learn.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


What has become of us? What are we turning into?

We have let our arrogance and our ignorance overcome us completely. We live in a world where the pride of our parents has become more important than their child’s true potential. We live in a world where students honestly believe that a letter is more important than their honesty and hard work. Students would rather tell their parents, “Well it’s not my fault! She doesn’t teach us anything!” Rather than be honest, admit their wrongs, and ask for hard work. It’s pathetic, but can you blame them? Students listen to their parents, who would rather brag about a near perfect grade point average rather than their child’s honest work ethic. It’s this blinding ignorance that has disabled us from understanding what it actually means to learn.

Thankfully, on the other side of the world there is another world that shows us exactly what it means to have the amazing opportunity of education. That other world is called Abdasalam Saya.
Our first day at Abdasalam Saya we met Touria, the education director. “Abdasalam Saya” literally translates to “slave of peace.” Which in my mind is the best way to describe Touria. Touria emphasized how truly hard working and grateful students are at Abdasalam Saya. This was displayed to the “T” during our first day in the classroom. We have been teaching for two days now and in every class, during every hour, and every minute, students treated every word as if it could be their last, hanging on to every last syllable. They seize every education opportunity that is presented before them. They show up to school every day with an ambition to learn like their lives depend on it. Because they do.

Mariam is one of the brightest, hardest working students in my class. She is soft-spoken, diligent, accountable, and at appropriate times she can even be funny. Yesterday we had the opportunity to sit down with Mariam and her humble family inside their home. While there, Mariam’s guardian and older sister admitted that Mariam will sometimes come home from school crying. Crying because she has not understood the lesson that was taught to her class that day. Her sister continued to say that “Every time she cries I have to remind her that ‘we pray for those who teach and for those who want to learn.’” She continued explaining that education is not about being the smartest in your class. She justified it saying, “If education was about the smartest people then we would only have good doctors and engineers, that’s it.” To be a doctor or is an engineer is an amazing thing. But if we want to live in a perfect world we must have great carpenters, great shoe makers, even great factory workers. She continued saying “It doesn’t matter what you do, if you educate yourself you will be great and you will be helping to change the world into a better place.”

Education is not about talent, it is about passion. From carpentry to law school it doesn’t matter what your profession is, what matter is your willingness to learn and achieve success.
What is happening to the American education system is truly unfortunate. Some might even say, “Well, that’s life.” But, in the words of one of our translators Wassyan, “You can’t say ‘that’s life’ because that’s only the life you know. Unless you go and experience another way of life you will live your entire life thinking that there is no way to fix some of the life’s greatest problems.” It is our job to experience all ways of life and apply what we learn to our lives.

We, as a community, as a state, as a country must swallow our pride and take responsibility for our wrong doings that are negatively affecting our education system. We must stop blaming our teachers, our principals, and our education system. We must stop telling students they won’t achieve success if they don’t get a good grade in algebra. We must instead, “pray for those who teach and those who want to learn.” Because those are the people that will change the world. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


There are many companies, organizations, and restaurants whose slogans do not hold true to reality. As it turns out, Red Bull does not give you wings, Faction isn’t only for the few, Jimmy Johns won’t actually deliver in seconds, and I can’t even remember the last time I went to Subway and got a five dollar foot long.

With that said, CGA’s slogan, “Ignite, Inspire, and Empower” has unveiled its actuality before my very eyes over these past 4 years.

4 years ago I set out to Rivas, Nicaragua on my very first trip with CGA. I was among a total of 5 student volunteers who were the very first (students) to volunteer at Escuela Especial. I was challenged like never before, both inside and outside of the classroom so intensely that I had two options: to breakthrough, or breakdown. Thankfully, on one of my tougher days, during a home visit with local Nicaraguan child services, I met Julissa. Julissa is a 22 year old woman with Cerebral Palsy who is so shunned from her abusive family that the only reason she is still (barely) alive is because her family gets a small monthly incentive from child services that is intended for medical attention for Julissa, but is clearly abused by her family as they keep her in a locked, cardboard sealed closed with nothing to entertain her but a plastic bag. Thus, it was at that point in time, a small spark ignited a massive fire of passion inside of me. This passion was the desire to change, to make a difference.


That Fire kept burning inside of me for 3 more years as I traveled with CGA to both Cambodia and Tanzania in which I had two remarkably successful trips for both me and the group as a whole. It was at these places that I met people like Mr. Kimaro. Mr. Kimaro is a teacher at a private English primary school, a student of computer and technology at night, and a proud father of three. Mr. Kimaro does not have many tangible things. He struggles to pay bills and feed his family. But despite all that he is one of the most honest, hardworking, and proud men who keeps his core beliefs and values dearly close to him. It is people like Mr. Kimaro that inspire me every day.


These past two weeks I have experienced what it truly means to be empowered and to spark empowerment in others. For the first time in 4 years I took the concept of ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ into the classroom as well as during relief work. In the classroom I would observe, adapt, create, and teach with passion, excitement, and enthusiasm. No matter how tired, no matter how hot it was, this feeling of making a change, this feeling of empowerment kept fueling my body to achieve greatness. That is a feeling I will be chasing for the rest of my life.
I’m not exactly sure what I am going to do with my life. But I do know for sure I plan to ‘Ignite, inspire, and empower’ others as CGA did to me.

I plan to be the change I want to see in the world and I encourage you to as well.