Wooster, OH. – Imagine being a kid and having the desire to stand up and use your voice to bring about change in the world. It is hard to imagine, but 2019 alumnus Pierre Paul always had the determination to do so.
Born in Brazil, Pierre and his family moved to Wooster, Ohio when he was six years old. As a kid, he says he was often judged for the way he spoke, which opened his eyes about how our differences and even language barriers could affect people.
“I started to wonder why there are people with different exceptionalities that aren’t being accommodated the way they should,” Pierre said.
This curiosity and passion led him to Bradley University as a political science major, where he was actively involved in Student Senate and the Bradley Chorale.
Also at Bradley, he was a member of the university’s award-winning Speech Team to bring attention to a number of social issues. One issue he was determined to problem solve was normalizing accommodations for people with disabilities like the hearing-impaired.
Following months of research, Pierre became inspired to lead a team to create “We Hear You,” a communications software that translates American Sign Language (ASL) into spoken word.
The project earned his team first prize in the 2019 Social Impact Challenge sponsored by the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The challenge is a competition for Bradley students to create innovative ideas for sustainable enterprises that will positively impact the well-being of communities, families or individuals.
He says his experience on the Hilltop connected him to inspiring mentors and motivated him to go out into the community to make a difference.
“Bradley gave me the opportunity to get out of this mindset of ‘I want to facilitate change one day. I want to facilitate change when I’m older.’ [And I realized] I have the resources to facilitate change now.”
With this new mindset, Pierre thought about how he could address another social issue: racial injustice.
Following riots and looting in Minneapolis this past June, Pierre knew he needed to act. He and hundreds of volunteers traveled to the city’s Target store to assist with the community’s clean-up efforts.
Pierre also led a peaceful protest and silent march through downtown Peoria. The protest, “Are We Next?” rallied about 1,000 people and brought attention to police brutality and the need for racial equality.
Today, Pierre began a master’s program at Bradley in nonprofit leadership while serving as a residence hall director. However, he continues to help bridge the gap for ASL users and educate the community achieving an equitable society for all people.
Using his voice to inspire change and help others takes a lot of courage. When asked what advice he would give to students interested in advocacy, he says being the change you want to see is key.
“The first step to facilitating change or being the next voice or doing what you want to do is deciding to do it. And from there deciding how you’re going to do it.”
Without a doubt Pierre is leading by example!
Thank you, Pierre, for being a leader and using your voice for good! Continue to make #BUBAAProud.