It’s time to stand up: Speaker encourages students to follow their passion

In 2008, Spencer West took a flight to Kenya and reconstructed a crumbling school, brick by brick, from the ground up. West did all of this without the help of his legs.

Spencer West spoke to a Bradley audience last Tuesday evening, and gave a humorous, inspiring lecture.

Determined to find his happiness, West took the journey to Africa with the Free the Children Charity, an organization that builds schools in impoverished areas across the globe.

“We all have a responsibility to lend a hand,” said West, who is now a speaker for Me to We, a group that partners with Free the Children.

Born with a genetic disease, West lost both of his legs at the age of five, and the West family was told he would never become a functioning part of society.

He spoke of the bullying he experienced throughout school, and how much he wanted to fit in. Despite being told many times by his mother that he was different, and it was okay, West wanted to find normality.

Eventually West attended college, held a steady job and made many friends. Although he had all the material things anyone could want, West was still unhappy. In 2008, West met Craig Kielburger,  co-founder of the Free the Children Charity.

“It’s definitely inspirational,” said freshman elementary education major Julia Janes. “[Kielburger] showed how one person can start something big.”

After some hesitation, West decided he would find his happiness in Kenya.

Once overseas, he instantly found peace. He took joy in the Adopt a Village Program, building a school, providing clean water and interacting with the women and children. After seeing the conditions and struggles the town went through, West realized that he never should have tried to fit in, but to accept his differences.

“His story is unique,” said freshman elementary education major Kelsea Hirsch. “It’s something I haven’t heard before. I had never heard of the Me to We Organization before, but it came at a good time.”

When West shares his story at lectures around the world today, he does not make the loss of his legs the main point; rather, he wants his audience to find their passion, and to go after it.

After sharing his life-changing opportunity in Kenya, West gave a few pieces of advice to Bradley students.

First, West advised students to be happy every day. He even challenged students to post one thing they are grateful for on their Facebook or Twitter accounts once a week. Next, he said students should do something, like getting involved and volunteering on campus.

Finally, West said we should stand up. He believes standing up can cause a chain reaction of courage. West gave the example of Lydia Moss Bradley as someone who stood up by providing the chance for students to be educated.

By making simple actions, we change our world and find our passions. West is doing just that, and he began by accepting his differences.