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“Out of Many, One People”

Voices: Duke Community Contemplations

This is the motto at the foundation of my Jamaican heritage. It conveys the importance of individuals of various backgrounds uniting to create one great community.

Olivia Martin

For the first 17 years of my life, Gaithersburg, Maryland, was the extraordinary community that I had the pleasure of engaging in. Yet, with the click of a button on a December evening, I was immediately welcomed into a new community. The wonderfully diverse Duke University would be my home away from home for the next four years and a community I would be able to cherish for a lifetime. From the excitement of being admitted to the only university I applied to, to the uncertainty of whether I would find my place in this novel environment, my emotions were at an all-time high upon receiving my letter of acceptance. To be quite honest, this flurry of feelings has not  completely faded, even as I approach the end of my freshman year. While I continue adjusting to these emotions, one of the most important things I have learned is that my best experiences occur when I dive headfirst into the opportunities Duke has to offer, taking comfort in the fact that I am surrounded by individuals working toward a common goal who are willing to help me along the way.

Looking back on my first year here, it took me some time to come to this realization. From the moment I stepped foot on campus, I had been encouraged to blaze my own trail and to be wary of both the comparison trap and the idea of effortless perfection. And while I tried to keep these pieces of advice in mind, I began wondering if I had actually found my place on campus. Do I have enough friends who I can turn to in times of need? Should I join more extracurriculars and go to more social events? Am I doing enough?

These doubts caused me to stop and think of another important symbol of my Jamaican roots: the swallow-tailed hummingbird.

Known for its uniquely colored feathers, unmatched flying style and beautiful songs, the swallow-tailed hummingbird reminded me of the importance of remaining true to myself by embracing my uniqueness. After all, it is our distinctive qualities that brought us together in this wonderful community.

“From the moment I stepped foot on campus, I had been encouraged to blaze my own trail and to be wary of both the comparison trap and the idea of effortless perfection.”

Despite my doubts, I realized that through my collaboration and creation of friendships with the dynamic individuals surrounding me every day, I have been honoring the vision central to my heritage all along. From participating in civic engagement opportunities during Project BUILD, to pursuing my passion for basketball with my fellow Duke women’s basketball managers, to learning to become a leader of consequence with my fellow interns at the Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics, I have been able to engage and contribute to the diversity of Duke.

As I reflect on the foundations of my heritage, I understand that just as a hummingbird’s feathers and flight patterns differ from those of all other species of birds, so too will my journey differ from those of my peers. In the way these birds pollinate and enable the growth of different plants, our engagement and actions will do the same for our community. It is this type of collaboration through our differences that makes us one amazing Duke community.

Olivia Martin is a Trinity freshman from Gaithersburg, Maryland. She is passionate about engaging in leadership and mentorship opportunities aimed at making a positive social impact through initiatives focused on promoting equity and inclusion.

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