I was born and raised in New Bern, a small town in Eastern North Carolina...
Like most small southern towns, there was not a lot going on, and finding fun usually involved a sense of adventure and an active imagination. I always had a flare for drama, and loved going to the movies. When I saw Independence Day in theaters growing up it sparked a life-long love for disaster movies (even the terrible ones one would find on cable TV on a random evening).
I also loved history for the same reason; whether in a book on the French Revolution or a class covering the Cold War, I immersed myself in the excitement and drama of prominent historical flashpoints that changed the course of the world, even threatened its very existence.
But my search for all things adventurous led me to other activities that did not quite fit my penchant for the apocalyptic: community volunteering.
Jacqueline grew up in the small town of New Bern, North Carolina, where she developed an affinity for history, community service, and good (and bad) disaster movies.
As a very active member of my church youth group, I volunteered with the World Changers organization each summer.
A group from my church would travel to a different state, or different country and either repair damaged homes, or build new ones for those in need. Part of the reason I loved volunteering came from my constant desire to travel and see new things. But what really got me hooked was the tangible feeling of making a true difference. Physically using my hands to help build communities was one of the most rewarding moments I had ever been a part of.
Jacqueline's studies led her to graduate school at NC State, where she would be drawn to a career path making tangible, on the ground impact.
Several years later while I was a freshman in college, the world turned upside down.
9/11 was a terrifying historical flashpoint. I found myself asking, how did we get here? I realized that I knew very little about what was happening in the world. That feeling of ignorance I had after 9/11 played a large role when I settled on history as a major for my undergraduate degree.
After graduating, I was encouraged to pursue a PhD in history. But before delving deeper into academia, I wanted a break to think about whether this was really the right path to take. I took a position working as a staff member at East Carolina University. It was not a hand in glove fit. I missed the on the ground impact I experienced during my volunteer work; I knew, for me, there was a different path forward.
Instead of a PhD, I started graduate school at NC State University in the Masters of International Studies program. I realized that making a real impact would require getting out in the world and seeing firsthand what some of the greatest challenges are.
I went to Nepal to volunteer in the relief efforts after the catastrophic 2015 earthquake. I traveled to Kathmandu, with plans to travel on to a small village a few hours outside the city that had been devastated by an avalanche.