As part of a writing assignment, I was asked to write about a person that I believe acted as a “Gamechanger” in shaping our country’s culture. Here’s the result:

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the accomplishments of a prominent figure in history, someone who has had a powerful influence on not just my life, but the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. This is a young woman who has shown courage in the darkest of times; given hope to others in hopeless circumstances; and fought for the things that truly matter in this world. Her name is Buffy Summers.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Buffy Summers is just a fictional character blonde highschooler from Sunnydale. What could we possibly learn from a fictional character highschooler that would help us become well-balanced individuals? Because let’s be honest, teenagers are anything but well-balanced.

It’s true, Miss Summers was only a young teenager when she first began fighting the forces of evil and won the hearts of ordinary citizens worldwide, myself included. It didn’t take long for us to see how truly special she really was.

So what makes her different from other heroic female leads? What sets her apart from even her own kind, the Vampire Slayers?

First, she had a wise, compassionate mentor. But so did Lara Croft, Jean Grey and Katniss Everdeen. The difference is, Giles also doubled as a father figure to Buffy, whose biological father was never present. This bond of love and trust was stronger than any other student/mentor relationship.

Giles was also extremely educated on the subject of vampires, having a number of resources and a rather large personal library. However, Buffy didn’t get to be the oldest living Chosen One by studying demons from books. She was out there every night, sizing them up in person. Her personal experience with demons ranged far beyond that of any of her predecessors.

Second, Buffy had an unbreakable alliance of friends, including vampires, witches, demons, all formidable forces of power, and every single one of them believed to the core that they belonged together in a family of misfits.

Finally, the biggest reason for Buffy’s successful rise to fame was the fact that people could relate to her — despite her Slayer powers. For Buffy Summers, high school was literally Hell. Raise your hand if high school was a big bowl of suckage for you… Yeah. Every highschooler has demons. Buffy’s were just a bit more literal, and she kicked her demons’ butts the way we wish we could kick ours.

Through her dedication to her profession as a high school student by day, and a Vampire Slayer by night, Buffy allowed generations of teenagers to confront their own demons, and we realized there’s a little bit of ass-whoppin’ vampire slayer in all of us. And that, my friends, is why Buffy Summers is a Gamechanger.