A Run in with Jane Goodall in Parking Lot Gave Me Hope


College is rough. Most of my time May of 2017 was spent inside the library at all hours of the day studying for finals. Earlier in the semester I had decided that I was getting bored of my Public Relations major and that I would add a Business Administration major to my degree, just to make the last year and a half of college more interesting.  2017 ended up being much more interesting than I ever imagined. It was the year I decided to add a second major, the year I met Jane Goodall in the parking lot, and the year that I remembered that every individual can make a change, including myself.

It all started last spring. I did not realize when I added a second major to my degree was that it would require around-the-clock work on assignments, papers, summer classes, and a great deal of determination.  My classes got progressively harder, I was working later into the night at the library and struggling to get through my most difficult classes. I doubted myself all the time and began to seriously question why I had chosen to pursue a second major.

One especially exhausting day, after running around campus from class to class I finally headed back to my car to go home. When I got to my car I realized I no longer had my car keys. I broke down and cried in the parking lot. I was having such a difficult time at school, I was always tired, and now I had lost my car keys. I felt defeated and hopeless, but I searched around campus endlessly looking.  They were nowhere to be found. I went back to my car to see if I had dropped them somewhere in the garage. As I crawled around my car looking for my keys on the ground, I looked up and couldn’t believe what I saw – Dr. Jane Goodall was walking across the parking garage.

Forget the keys, what is Jane Goodall doing at my school?! I collected myself and went into the building to see what was going on. Turns out, Dr. Goodall was making an appearance on campus to speak to students in the School of International Service (SIS). I didn’t have a ticket, nor was I a student in SIS, but thanks to a kind man taking tickets who saw that I was parked in the building’s garage and was seriously distressed, I was able to sit in the back and listen to her speech.

Jane spoke about peace, hope and called for conservation action.  She talked about how every plant, insect, primate, and living being are connected in a web of integral roles that make this planet whole and beautiful. Most specifically, she spoke about the role of education in each individual’s life. The reason why we go to school is to be able to do great things with our education and make our own difference in the world.

Jane’s lecture was exactly what I needed to hear that day in the middle of finals when I lost my keys.  Amidst everything that was going on with my classes, I had forgotten that the reason I went to school in the first place is so that I can make a positive change in the world.

Jane just happened to be in the right place at the right time for me that day in May.  I eventually did find my keys, passed all of my finals, and now a year later, I am an intern at the Jane Goodall Institute (and graduating on time with a double major!)

If you are as inspired by Jane as I am, you too can really make that difference that seems out of reach. By joining Team Jane or becoming a Chimp Guardian, you can start doing your part today. Team Jane is a really easy way to to become part of Jane’s mission by using your unique talents to fundraise in your own way, in your own community.  Becoming a Chimp Guardian allows you to contribute to the lives of the rescued, orphaned chimps at our sanctuary in Tchimpounga by providing meals, play areas, and world-class care. You can also join JGI’s youth program Roots & Shoots, a global movement to grow compassionate citizens creating projects which help people, other animals and the environment.

George and Viene together after quarantine period

George and Vienna, two rescued chimpanzees at JGI’s Tchimpounga sanctuary you have the opportunity to support through Chimp Guardian.

On my desk at JGI I have a quote from Jane that says:

Every individual matters

Every individual has a role to play

Every individual makes a difference

Jane’s words got me through a time at school when I really needed guidance, and they continue to power me through my career goals and beyond. I know that I work hard because someday I want to make my difference in the world, and Jane’s hope for me gives me hope for all of us.


The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Maxine is currently an intern in the Community Engagement department at the Jane Goodall Institute. She is a senior at American University working on a Business Administration and Public Relations double major. She has been passionate about the environment and conservation since her parents raised her spending summers camping in the U.S National Parks. She hopes to someday work around the world on women's issues and environmental conservation. Upon her graduation in May 2018 she would like to become the proud owner of a dog.