There aren’t many young adults as mature and self-aware as Conrad Gabriel, a senior at Deering High School. When it comes to standing up for what he believes in, Conrad has been treading the path of activism for years. He works proactively to raise awareness about the issues he believes are at the root of today’s problems, and he approaches these issues with kindness and compassion.
A Sense of Responsibility at an Early Age
Working hard and adjusting to change is nothing new to Conrad and his family. His parents moved to America over 20 years ago from Vietnam and worked long hours to support the family. Conrad grew up with an older brother who was in charge of managing bills and making appointments for their parents who weren’t fluent in English. Conrad inherited these responsibilities after his brother left for college. He was only ten at the time, and as a result, learned about life early and matured much faster than his peers. This push into adulthood with increased responsibilities, including helping to take care of his younger sister, made him question the roles of masculinity and pressure in today’s society.
Despite some hardships early on, these experiences made Conrad appreciate his family and he credits his parents as the core of his values. When reflecting on the origins of his community focus, Conrad said, “It’s mainly because of the principals my parents taught me. You always have to provide for others, the act of being selfless is always a good act to do. That’s something I enjoyed doing.”
Giving Back Through Community Organizations
Along his journey, Conrad got involved with The Yellow Tulip Project, an organization founded to destigmatize mental health issues and raise awareness nationwide, and Key Club, a community outreach program run through his school that focuses on service and volunteerism. He has served as the Outreach Director for The Yellow Tulip Project and the National Key Club Lt. Governor and Committee Chair for International Projects for the New England region, while also being active in the school chapter. In addition, Conrad is a member of Seeds of Peace and a fierce debater.
It was through his involvement with these organizations and volunteering that he honed his time-management skills, identified his passions, and committed himself fully to giving back to his community.
Marching for Our Lives
Gun control is one of the key issues of Conrad’s generation, and he isn’t just sitting on the sidelines watching the debates and continued violence unfold. Conrad used his leadership and organizing skills to build the Portland Chapter of March for Our Lives from the ground up. From there, he worked to coordinate a protest on National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 7, 2019.
Understanding the nuanced nature of gun ownership, in Maine especially, Conrad sees his approach to gun control as open minded and proactive. “We don’t want to take individuals’ guns away. We just want stronger regulations in place to ensure people who aren’t qualified to hold them, don’t have them. That’s often how these incidents happen, because they fall into the wrong hands,” Conrad said to a WMTW reporter with regard to the protest.
Looking to the Future
As a high school senior, Conrad is busy with political science and macro-economic classes, and of course, he’s continuing his community service. He’s also thinking about his future a lot these days. He’ll be attending Tulane University in the fall, where he plans to study homeland security and pre-law. “I think interest in government is just something I’ve grown up on,” Conrad explained, “the duty of civic government and people participating is important to me.”
While his future plans will be out of state, Conrad hasn’t ruled out returning to Maine, a place he loves for its small communities and politically-aware population.
As described by one of his colleagues, “Conrad is that rare young man who will truly make a difference in this vast and complex world. His sense of clarity and compassion, as well as his leadership skills and kindness are truly exceptional.” Berman & Simmons is delighted to offer Conrad Gabriel a $250 sponsorship award, which he has chosen to donate to The Yellow Tulip Project, and a $500 award for his education.