Student Blogger – Guest Speaker: Courtney Greene


We shuffled into room 1023 at roughly 4:10 PM, unsure of what to expect. Beforehand, we were given a name, a face, and a short bio of Courtney Greene, our final guest speaker this summer. We were told she would lecture on the topic of philanthropy, a term not all of us were familiar with. A friend of mine was convinced this was the study of bugs. We all may have had different expectations for the lecture, but we were completely oblivious to the inspiration Ms. Greene would leave us with.

Ms. Greene told us the backstory of her job, what she does with the Harvard College Fund, and shared with us new insight about financial aid for schools within and outside of America. But this alone isn’t what ignited an internal flame inside of me; it was the questions she would pose and the ideas she would ponder that made me sincerely reflect and question if I am giving back enough.

“How did volunteering make you feel? What is the real difference between volunteering and getting paid?” she would ask us.

It wasn’t really a lecture at all; it was an open discussion. She listened to each and every one of us who wanted to be listened to, and she made us think deeper and harder about the impacts of our service.  

We all concluded that volunteering comes with it a sense of moral satisfaction, genuine love, perspective, skills, and even new friends. It does not come with a physical reward, like money, however passion for giving back is far stronger than any piece of paper. Everyone chimed in with inspiring stories of their own service work and how that lead to a strong sense of reward. With every glance around the room, I found another hand shooting up, a new student wishing to share their story.

It was a perfect chaos, like flames jumping from tree to tree, dictated by their nature and the nature of the trees they touch. Nothing is more chaotic than a wildfire. Yet, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for fire’s existence. In yesterday’s case, we were igniting a wildfire of passion, desire, kindness, and belief that everyone deserves equal opportunities for education.

There was no doubt about it, you could see the interest and attentiveness this discussion brought by the all of the side conversations- yes, I see the irony of what I just said. Hear me out. Side conversations usually consist of plans for the weekend or friend drama, however the side conversations yesterday were about the times we volunteered, or the service clubs we are a part of. Ms. Greene had moved us so much, philanthropy was suddenly more interesting than the latest celebrity gossip. The room was filled with this buzz throughout the lecture and continued on afterwards.

This was arguably the most inspiring lecture, as most of us left the room with a new (or stronger) desire to give back to society. Courtney Greene’s speech was a kind reminder that life shouldn’t always be about physical rewards, and that one spark can start a fire. It was a perfect chaos.

– Sarah B. from Dubai, UAE