In the pursuit of peace“I want to feel that at some point I was able to start a ripple effect,” said BrieAnn West. The ambitious young woman exudes maturity beyond her years and has a passport that would rival that of any jetsetter’s. But her many international trips weren’t taken for pleasure. They were taken in the hopes of getting the ripple effect started, leading to the ultimate goal of world peace.
By: Stacie Kimball, Alexandria Echo Press
In the pursuit of peace - a young woman’s travels help her better understand people.
“I want to feel that at some point I was able to start a ripple effect,” said BrieAnn West.
The ambitious young woman exudes maturity beyond her years and has a passport that would rival that of any jetsetter’s.
But her many international trips weren’t taken for pleasure. They were taken in the hopes of getting the ripple effect started, leading to the ultimate goal of world peace.
West is a positive thinker who believes that peace is possible.
“I take this belief everywhere in my life. I want the chance to influence people,” she shared.
West graduated from Jefferson High School in Alexandria in 2006. She is the daughter of Sheryle and the late Gary West of Alexandria.
She was interested in law and world affairs, so pre law at Hamline University in St. Paul seemed like the right choice. However, her major quickly changed to political science.
“I found that political science was a much better fit for my interests as it covered a broader spectrum,” she explained.
In college, she had the opportunity to travel with the Hamline Model United Nations (UN) Team – a team that participates in mock debates and discussions and further studies the work of the UN.
The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II with a goal to stop wars between countries and to provide a platform for dialogue where countries that are not super powers can speak and be heard.
As a junior at Hamline, West went on an international independent study trip in 2009. She and other students visited Amsterdam, Israel, Jordan and Egypt during the month-long trip.
West feels strongly in being culturally diverse and this trip was a way for her to gain access to people and cultures abroad.
She passionately shared, “This isn’t about going to another country and building a house that you can see. This is about building relationships. How do you influence and how can you make change? Where does it start?”
In Israel, the 23-year-old had the opportunity she was searching for. She met with Palestinian and Israeli leaders to gain perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The leaders gave West and other students a more fact driven viewpoint, therefore meeting with the common people was more of a highlight for her.
She went to Bethlehem University and visited with Palestinian Christians, speaking with them about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians shared how the barrier between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank that is being constructed by Israelis affects their daily lives. They described how they must travel eight hours through checkpoints to the Amman airport in Jordan and how they only get one pass per year into Israel to visit Jerusalem for religious purposes.
The time West spent with the Palestinian people was the personal experience she craved.
“I don’t think it’s ever too late for people – no matter what has been done,” she said. “It’s a collective healing kind of thing.”
In a world that is riddled with turmoil and conflict, West has a strong desire to understand others and build relationships.
She is quick to say, “This has never been about me. We need to stop seeing each other with labels and start seeing each other as individuals.”
She is convinced her travels and experiences will assist in her pursuit of peace and understanding and that goes far beyond just what is learned in the classroom.
“We have a lot of leaders in the U.S. that have education that is limited to the classroom,” explained West. “But, if you don’t have the opportunity to go there and get it from the source, how do you understand it?”
Always looking to add to her travel experiences, West also spent time in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Austria in 2009 as part of a special intensive program through American University’s Washington Semester program. She is driven to influence, educate and become educated.
West graduated from Hamline University in 2010 with the highest honors and a bachelor of arts degree in political science and a certificate in conflict studies.
She currently works for Regional Elite Airline Services in Minneapolis as a performance supervisor, providing above wing customer service in unique situations.
Her employment has offered her more chances to travel. However, she doesn’t just take in sites like most tourists. In her travels to Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Nicaragua and Germany, she spent time getting to know the people.
Her five-year plan includes traveling to Afghanistan. Her interests lie strongly in community engagement, therefore, she hopes to use her studies to rebuild communities after trauma and provide basic human rights to people who need the assistance.
“I have always been interested in the bigger picture,” she said.
It would be hard to doubt anything that West puts her mind to.
What drives her in all that she sets out to do?
“It’s my ambition that has gotten me where I am,” she asserted. “I have a lot of faith and passion for life and I enjoy sharing it with people.”