This month at Jersey Cares we are celebrating Women’s History Month by inviting some of our friends to share their thoughts and experiences on the women who have inspired them. Today we feature a piece by Kaitlyn Brady, Jersey Cares Senior Manager, Corporate Relations.
I wrote my college application essay about Audrey Hepburn. While growing up watching old movies, she became one of my favorite actresses and thus one of the reasons I wanted to study film. Her acting talents paired with her humanitarian efforts seemed like a great way to talk about my interests and qualifications and convince these colleges that they should accept me. Nearly ten years later, I don’t quite remember the details of the essay that’s now lost on my parents’ defunct desktop computer, but I feel inspired by Hepburn more than ever.
After graduating from the University of Rochester with majors in Film and Media Studies and English, I started an AmeriCorps term at Jersey Cares. Unlike some of my colleagues who had been heavily involved in Habitat for Humanity or Alternative Spring Breaks in college, I had minimal experience with hands on volunteering. All that changed during my AmeriCorps term. I led volunteer groups at homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, schools in disrepair, and parks littered with garbage and debris. Each and every homeowner, student, administrator, and individual we interacted with and served was so grateful. The difference I made inspired me to stay at Jersey Cares once my AmeriCorps term of service was completed.
Now, Hepburn’s talents, inspirational words, and legacy resonate with me on a different level than when I applied to college. Her family fled Belgium to the Netherlands before the start of World War II, in the hopes of avoiding any invasions. When Holland was taken over by Germany, Hepburn, like the rest of the country, suffered from malnutrition and had loved ones sent to labor camps. She participated in dance performances to raise money for the Dutch resistance. As an actress, she strategically and thoughtfully chose her roles and also began a business partnership with Givenchy. Hepburn focused on her humanitarian efforts as she stopped taking acting roles. She was appointed Goodwill Ambassador at UNICEF and was subsequently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for this work. While working with UNICEF, she traveled to several countries, visiting and helping with the organization’s various programs. When not on these field trips, she still worked tirelessly for UNICEF by testifying before United States Congress, hosting award ceremonies, making speeches, giving interviews, and so much more. Hepburn may be most known for being an elegant fashion icon, but she is so much more than that. Her background and career demonstrate an incredibly resilient, compassionate woman with business acumen and an undeniable desire to help others.
Hepburn’s shift in focus from acting to her humanitarian efforts might be explained by her own quote, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” This quote means so much more to me now than when I first reflected on Hepburn’s influence on my life. I was accepted to college and graduated with that Film and Media Studies degree, but I have found a path that allows me to make good use of that second hand and help others.