“Being an introvert simply means that I am self-sufficient and like to deal with my own problems. It does not mean I cannot be a leader. ”
Name: Ruthie Rogers
Hometown: Kingsport, Tennessee
Education: Dobyns-Bennett High School
Passions and Interests: Dance (especially ballet!) and cooking
Transformational Experience: GLA Peru: Service in the Sacred Valley
Making an Impact: Sharing her written reflection on how being an introvert is an asset for great leadership
Ruthie Rogers is not someone who gives up easily. In a culture that often downplays the capacity of young people to make a difference in the world, being a high school student like Ruthie comes with its own unique set of challenges. And the toughest challenge of them all can be exploring somewhere new, especially as an introvert.
“Last June, I left the familiarity of my small town in East Tennessee and stepped onto a plane to go to a much anticipated service trip in Cusco, Peru. Not only was it my first time outside of the country, but I was traveling alone, so I was extremely nervous. All of the words and conjugations I had worked so hard to learn in AP Spanish left my brain.
“However, looking back on it, the chaos of traveling to Peru only made it more rewarding when I finally arrived. Being able to work in the captivating Andes Mountains each day made all of the trouble getting there so worth it.”
During her experience on GLA’s Peru: Service in the Sacred Valley program, Ruthie began to see that traveling somewhere new is only part of the journey. Leadership comes not just through the courage to try something new, but the willingness to reflect on it.
Ruthie decided to put her reflection down in words, and we thought her wonderful insights were worth sharing. Here’s an excerpt from her first-hand account of the experience, and how it changed her:
“Before arriving in Peru, my idea of the trip was more like that of a vacation, but after the first day of intense manual labor, my blistered hands told me otherwise. Each morning, my newfound friends and I woke up at 6 AM to start our day of building guinea pig farms for the rural village of Choco. Even though the work was hard, I never let myself slack off because I knew that each brick I carried helped feed the precious children we played with during break each day.
“The incredible outcome of the work we did over those two wonderful weeks drove me to work relentlessly, and before long, I was known as the “Wheelbarrow Queen.” I worked as hard as I could, showing how powerful service leadership can be. With encouragement and optimism, my team worked together to knock down the giant wall of dirt separating us from the completion of our difficult job.”
And that wall of dirt wasn’t the only thing that would be knocked down by her tenacity and grit.
From the onset of her experience, Ruthie knew she was an introvert. And from the classroom to the outside world, there’s often this perception – however incorrect – that introversion is a wall standing in the way between someone who hopes to be a leader and someone who actually is one.
As she reflected in her writing, Ruthie came to discover that was certainly not the case, though it took some time to realize it fully:
“According to various personality tests, and to my dismay, I am an “introvert.” For as long as I can remember, I have associated this word with many negative connotations. I assumed that introverts were socially awkward, unusual kids who could not carry on a conversation with anyone. So as one would imagine, hearing this word to describe me was a bit upsetting. However, it was not until I was labeled as an introvert that I realized my judgments had been wrong.
“Being an introvert simply means that I am self-sufficient and like to deal with my own problems. It does not mean I cannot be a leader. As an introverted person, I surprised even myself when I took on various leadership positions at my high school. For example, as captain of my dance team. I learned that I could use my levelheaded personality as a tool for listening to others and being an example for the whole team…”
This led Ruthie to realize:
…Leadership opportunities like this one [in school] have been great, but the most incredible time in my life was when I ventured out of my school’s comfort zone and became a leader in the most unusual of places.”
Though gaining this kind of real-world leadership experience can happen anywhere, it usually only happens when you stir the pot. Ruthie credits her parents pushing her and her sisters to spend time out of her hometown, to gain new perspectives and challenge her expectations. As she says it, “You really can’t put a price on the things you learn being outside the country.”
Certainly, making a two-day trek through the snow-capped mountains to reach Machu Picchu, building cuy farms in the thin air of the Peruvian hillsides, and meeting countless new people from different backgrounds and locations made her stronger than ever before.
And that makes a big difference, as far as Ruthie sees it:
“John Quincy Adams put it well when he said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” This quote is one I try to live be each day. Ever since my Peru trip, I have realized that, introverted or not, I can be the leader Adams described above. I can be someone who motivates others to leave the world a little better than how they found it. The two weeks I spent in Peru affect me daily. They make me a more passionate, daring person, and I am forever grateful for that.”
Knowing Ruthie like we do, we’re certain she’ll continue to make the world a little better every day.
Program Ruthie attended:
GLA Peru: Service in the Sacred Valley
Curious about exploring your own GLA adventure? Check these out:
- GLA Peru: Service in the Sacred Valley
- GLA Peru: Spanish Service Adventure
- GLA Peru: Amazon Service Adventure