"In Africa, if you don't die of AIDS or starvation, you'll die from Hepatitis B."
When Jenny Meek heard her professor say this in an infectious diseases class, the Brigham Young University public health major from Farmington, Utah, decided to take action.
She jumped at the chance when she heard about a scholarship funded by Chegg For Good, the arm of a textbook-renting company that works to empower students to be a catalyst for change, and ONE, a grassroots campaigning organization that fights poverty and disease by raising public awareness.
The initial submission required applicants to submit a 500-word essay about who they are and why they should represent the two companies in a week-long internship to Africa. It also asks applicants to detail how they will spread awareness to fight poverty, "eradicate AIDS, increase access to education, and advocate for further U.S. investments in programs."
"I honestly didn't think anything would have come from it after I wrote the essay," Meek said.
But her essay, which began with her experiences in her infectious diseases class, was chosen from thousands of applicants. She is now in league with 50 other students from universities across the country to be one of the top 20 finalists.
To compete for the top 20, Meek had to make a two- to three-minute video to tell the world why she should be the one to go to Africa. It is titled "Helplessness to Change," and included Meek going around the BYU campus asking fellow students what they know about Africa.
In the video, Meek asks the students what they think is the No. 1 thing they can do to stop or slow the spread of AIDS or communicable diseases in Africa. The answers included education and teaching people, which is something Meeks plans on doing if she makes it to Africa.
"It's been said that if you can educate just one girl, you can change the course of her entire family, and impact that whole village. Just with that one girl," Meek said. "I just think it's a very important thing that we take the time and resources to go help people."
She said that she would like to do everything she can to help today, because right now she feels that she can't help very much.
"The very purpose of my studying and test taking is to help others," Meek wrote in her essay. "This is my over-arching goal in life, the goal that defines what I want to be in my profession and what I want to dedicate my life to. ... But who am I helping now?"
Meek said by doing this internship, she can help make a difference and help others, even if it is just for one week.
Also in the competition is University of Utah student Beau Stucki, from Dixie State College. His video is titled "The Solution," and illustrates how educating the youth of Africa will help them the most.
After the top 20 have been selected from the videos, they will go to Washington, D.C., to attend a four-day ONE Power Summit to meet with Congress members, hear speeches and learn about ONE's advocacy for foreign aid. This trip will narrow down the selection to eight students who will actually travel to Africa.
Meek said she thinks she has a pretty good chance and is keeping her fingers crossed.
"Though I sit in my classes feeling useless to the plights of others in the world I know one thing for sure," she concluded her essay. "That wonderful people who are born into terrible conditions are the most deserving of a chance to change their lives, and I would be extremely grateful for the opportunity to help them do so."