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  • “When I looked at my first draft for the personal statement and then looked at the final draft, I realized how much my time at Write for the Future enhanced my writing…and pushed me to think more deeply, which created a better essay. I actually learned a lot about myself through the essay…and my essay really helped me receive an acceptance from my top choice.”
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  • Class of 2011, Fieldston
  • Class of 2015, Yale
  • “Our son, Jackson, has grown tremendously as a writer largely because of his participation in Write for the Future’s Creative and Expository Writing program. We started the 24 session program last year and have renewed enrollment of a second round of 24 sessions, His interests and skills in writing substantially improved. In fact, English has become his strongest subject this year. It is also his favorite. David spends a great deal of time selecting and supervising the coaches who work with Jackson. We highly recommend the program.”
  • Tonya Lewis Lee
  • Mother of Jackson Lee, 10th Grader
  • Write for the Future Expository/Creative Writing Program
  • “Write for the Future provided an incredible opportunity for Sophia to reflect on her life and the important events and people that have shaped her identity and interests. Sophia had the fortune to work with David, an amazing teacher and mentor, and other writing coaches who encouraged and supported her through the entire process. It was wonderful to see Sophia connecting the dots, and discovering herself while developing her writing skills and confidence as a writer. As parents, we witnessed this process and saw the results, without the need to become too involved. Write for the Future provided the right space and tools she needed to bring out her best and write solid and meaningful essays. More importantly, she grew and matured as a writer and individual throughout this process. We deeply appreciate what David and Valerie have been able to create and accomplish with Write for the Future.”
  • Amparo Hoffman and Bruce Edelstein
  • Parents of Sophia Edelstein
  • Class of 2013, The Dalton School
  • Class of 2017, Stanford University

Essay of the Week

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Bringing a Global Perspective to Campus

Given your interests, values, and goals, explain why Oberlin College will help
you grow (as a student and a person) during your undergraduate years. (300 words)

By: James Francis

There I am: a relatively shy 15-year-old male, standing in front of an all girls class reading a story about menstrual cycles and a steamy affair. A day before, I face a small mob pulling at me as if I were Jay Z as opposed to Jay Francis. It all started with Kids Powered, an organization my sister and I founded many years ago. Who would have thought we would grow from lemonade stands to one day delivering school supplies to the shantytown of Nyanza just outside Cape Town? I organized a community service project in South Africa after a family friend shared the story of teaching in the shantytowns without simple school supplies. So we raised money to buy and deliver supplies. In the first class I visited, I read aloud to the all girl class. The school did not have enough books for everyone, so the teacher often reads to the students.

Our drive to the high school was striking due to the prominent TV satellite dishes littering the roofs of tiny shacks made of scrap metal. I saw the impact of the satellites in an 11th grade boys’ math class as students asked me to describe my encounters with rap stars that they knew through television. “You never met Kanye West?”

If so many young people there connect so deeply to American pop culture, can we not find a way to excite them about other slices of America centering around, say, energy, technology or something of great benefit to the students’ futures? What if Oberlin’s revolutionary water treatment “Living Machine” came to the shantytown? I would be at home probing such a question at Oberlin, which inspires my devout interests in the college. I seek a liberal arts education that complements my passions for science and math in a way that allows me to imagine and then implement steps to a better world.

James Francis is a graduate of The Ethical Culture Fieldston School and is currently a sophomore at Oberlin College

Skidmore College is committed to creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive community. Please share a personal experience from which you gained a greater understanding of the value of diversity OR describe what you are seeking in a diverse campus community. (700 characters)

By: Sophia Barachi-Ehlrich

My mother is Romanian and has a heavy accent that I did not even notice until someone told me at the age of eleven. I have always yearned to be part of her culture. For years I begged my parents to to allow me to visit Romania to experience my heritage. The pleads were in vain until this past summer when they finally gave in. The moment I saw my grandfather’s sculptures majestically standing in a public park in Bucharest, I knew I belonged. I felt like I was revisiting a long-forgotten home. The change in language was even familiar, and by the end of my trip I slightly understood it. I was sad to leave, and though I am an American, there will always be a part of me across the Atlantic Ocean.

Sophia Barachi-Ehlrich is a graduate of The Ethical Culture Fieldston School and is currently a sophomore at Skidmore.

 

Poetry and Basketball Defeat a Scar

By Zenobya Clarke

When I was three, I fell off a couch and hit my head on the edge of a coffee  table. My face was busted open; I needed twenty-six stitches.  For years I was self-conscious about my scar. It  not only cut through my face but  controlled my view of myself as I often shied  away from people.

Two passions rescued me from limiting myself– basketball and poetry. They seem worlds apart yet I eventually united them as a force in my battle against the scar. I have been writing poetry for as long as I can remember and playing basketball before I learned to ride a bike at seven. The scar never mattered more than my skills as a player on the court, which forced me to work harder at the game. The art and the sport were my temporary escapes.

My words were my own and I spent hours engraving them onto the pages of my notebook. Poetry was my hiding place. I kept my writing secret, until I was no longer comfortable existing apart from the world.  Somehow I found the strength in middle school to take  a leap and sign up for a poetry reading at my church.

My heart pounding and hands cold, I sat waiting on the edge of the hard wooden pew. The church rang with applause; I was next. Immediately, the scar produced fear that surrounded me, holding me back. In my mind, everyone was there to see that mark rather than listen to my  poetry.  The butterflies scraped  their wings along the walls of my belly. I walked up on the stage and kept my back to the crowd,  scared to turn around. The butterflies flew fiercer. Reaching the podium, I slowly  turned around and raised my eyes to  face what felt like  millions of eyes staring back. I was exposed.  I looked back down at my paper that was now wrinkled from nervous hands. There was no turning back. I took one more look at the crowd and then took a deep breath. I  began to read and entered a world where my words encased me, holding me close then flowing from my mouth:

Boom Boom,

The pounding of the ball and my heart are one

The glides of my feet move like a pen across a page from a woman’s  angry heartless goodbye from spouse she once loved

My eyes stare across an empty court

My ears no longer hear the sound of a roaring crowd

Then like  dance

No

Like a painting

No

Like poetry

I twist and glide across an empty court to score a basketball

And it all comes back to

The roaring crowd

The empty court

All come back and the world I was in becomes a memory

But no worries because I know it will be back soon

I left the podium and escaped the staring eyes–proud with  a sense of fearlessness  bursting  through me.  Those same  poetic words that I used to hide myself, now became a door to find my individualism in such a public way. It built my self-confidence.

This new part of me felt larger than my insecurities and shined even more as basketball grew into more of a gateway of my expression.  On the court I played center; I did not shy away from the world. In fact,  I became a leader on the court in a moment that resembled my first poetry reading. In my freshman year, my team was losing a game.  Suddenly my confidence as a poet gave me a burst of unbelievable passion. Without realizing, I started yelling out to my teammates,  “Lets pull ourselves together!”  That comment revived the team’s dynamic flow. We played stronger. The moment echoed the part of me that I carried away from the church and far beyond the awareness of the scar.

I became involved without fears in several  community service projects–some sponsored by  my local chapter of  Jack and Jill of America Inc., an organization of African American families.  I even travelled to South Africa to teach poetry to children  through the Artworks for Youth Program when I was 15. I led a class of six boys in a dusty broken down classroom in Joe Slovo Township. I pushed them to tell  the stories of  their lives– the good and the bad. We all shared a connection. Our poetry was our therapy, linking our words  together. We laughed, cried, sang, and  even danced. On some days, we were really silly. Indeed I  left the summer feeling that fears over that little scar were even sillier.

Zenobya Clarke is a 2013 graduate of Packer Collegiate Institute and is now a Freshman at Spelman College.

Why Northwestern?

By Hannah Kliot

Junior year: I am in my bed reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, my mind wrestling to understand how two people could conspire to kill so many people. After reading Capote’s book, I begin to explore another massacre – Columbine – and, after devouring articles, books and movies on the event, I ultimately write my final English paper comparing the two tragedies. I was not always confident expressing my original ideas and analyses. I began my first year at Dalton as a timid English student, often afraid of my own narrative voice. Hard work and great teachers helped me develop into a passionate and confident writer who only writes a thesis statement after considering many perspectives that challenge my initial assumptions.

After taking an Urban Studies class through the Global Online Academy last spring, I could not help but wonder: What kind of student I would have become if I were solely dependent on the dollar menu at McDonald’s to satisfy my hunger?  My growth as a writer has never been compromised by nutrition. Many experts focus on test scores and classroom size when they consider the achievement gap in education. But what about the role of nutrition in educational disparities? How can limited access to fresh produce with vital nutrients impact the learning potential of children?  I am eager to bring these questions to SOCIOL 311 Food, Politics, and Society with Professor Susan Thistle and other classes in the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences to explore cities and the American future.

My fascination with urban America prompted my own research on nutrition and access to fresh food in cities as part of my Urban Studies class. Our class worked on solving problems specific to different urban communities. Through the class, I explored highway pollution in Portland, Oregon; drug violence in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and food deserts in New York City. I see Northwestern as an ideal place to continue these investigations and grow as an urbanist with a focus on a new, large, midwestern city. My interest in these areas draws me to the Weinberg School’s departments of Global Health, Urban Studies, and Sociology.

The Chicago Field Studies concentration in Weinberg is an exciting option for a student with my interests and background in the social sciences in that my classroom experience would extend beyond the campus and into the city. I could focus on social justice, intern at a nonprofit or community-based organization and make a tangible impact on urban challenges. This would be a natural progression from my active participation in my school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, in which I helped organize advocacy trips to Albany and D.C. to build affordable housing and prevent foreclosures.

My interest in science, and specifically my current biotechnology class, has sensitized me to the ethical challenges of scientific solutions to urban American problems. Our class recently researched different types of biofuels as alternative energy sources, which was a way to apply the information we had been learning in the classroom to real-world challenges. Classes offered in Weinberg such as Global Bioethics and Health, Biomedicine, Culture, and Society could give me further knowledge on the obstacles that scientists must surmount to be as effective as possible in our society. I could discuss and research solutions to these challenges with professors such as Michael Diamond, who specializes in Global Health Studies and has taught Managing Global Health Challenges.

As someone who enjoys writing, I am also eager to explore multiple platforms through which I can share my work on urban life. I am drawn to Northwestern because of the opportunity to take journalism classes in the Medill School of Journalism, which would complement my studies in Weinberg.  This would give me the chance to combine my love for writing and journalism with my passion for social sciences, urban studies, legal studies, and the Portuguese language and culture. Northwestern is a place where my many interests are not a hindrance in choosing between classes and programs, but rather a place where combining these interests is encouraged. Weinberg has a distinctly strong focus on undergraduate research in the social sciences. The annual Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition celebrates this research. The Weinberg School is also one of the few schools across the country that offers a minor in Portuguese and Lusophone Cultures, a concentration that I am passionate about and hope to pursue.

While Northwestern’s proximity to Chicago has a great influence on my desire to attend the school, its location in the smaller town of Evanston is just as appealing to me. The sudden transition from a bustling city to beautiful, quiet suburbs on the North Shore is a welcome contrast from the completely urban environment that I grew up with in New York City. A smaller college town setting with easy access to a large city provides the best of both worlds, a distinguishing quality of Northwestern.

Northwestern’s size is distinctive in that it has all of the resources of a larger university while maintaining strong, personal professor-student relationships that I find crucial for successful educational development. Students’ happiness and passion were evident throughout my visit. My tour guide Mariana beamed as she explained all of the unique academic, social, and internship opportunities that she had at Northwestern. Students smiled walking past us on Sheridan Road, eagerly anticipating their athletic commitments, lunch with friends, or office hours with a professor. Everyone seemed to have a place in the school, and all students are brought together through the numerous academic, cultural, athletic, and social offerings. After all, where else can thousands of undergraduate students come together for a thirty-hour Dance Marathon to benefit a charitable cause? This event epitomizes the large impact that Northwestern has due to its number of undergraduates while simultaneously maintaining the feeling of a tight-knit community. Whether it is dressing up in all purple to cheer on the Wildcats, working on a group project with friends during lunch in Norris, or exploring restaurants in the town of Evanston and in the greater city of Chicago, there is no place where I would rather spend my next four years.

Hannah Kliot is a graduate of the Dalton School and is currently a Freshman at Northwestern University

G-Pa’s Lessons

by Tyler Mackenzie

I was a junior on the varsity basketball team and my minutes were decreasing to the point where I was barely in the game. I wasn’t used to that kind of playing time. I was livid. I was considering quitting the team. Then G-Pa strolled into the kitchen. A short, balding man, my grandfather stands at about 5’4 and has a chubby frame. He always wears his spectacles, dress pants and his polo button up shirt. He never wears shorts or t-shirts.

G-Pa grinned at me with his normal smirk and shouted:

“Wasssup, Big T!”

Seeing my reaction, he immediately realized I was unhappy. He pulled a stool up, and I explained what was bothering me. G-Pa had seen me play and insisted that I needed to be more aggressive in practice and in the few minutes I had on the court. “You just have to push yourself.” He also told me that life has difficulties and quitting is the worst possible way to deal with them. I guess I absorbed what G-Pa told me. A year later, I am the captain of the team.

When my grandfather talks about working hard, I listen. He was a Tuskegee airman and we spend hours discussing World War II. He sparked a lot of my interest in history and his advice has changed my life in many ways. For example, basketball and football had been at the center of my world for as long I can remember. They were always more important than school work, especially during my freshman and sophomore years. Then came G-Pa again. He wanted to know why I was taking so few advanced courses. “You are smart, and you should work as hard in your classes as you do on the basketball court.”

I took his advice and decided to take AP US History and Economics. I have had my best academic experiences ever in those classes. At first, they were very difficult. I still remember all the serious faces on my first day in AP history. I could not spend any of the period making jokes and talking to my friends. I could not pick up my Blackberry. Flirting with girls in the class had always been more important than what the teacher wrote on the board, since everything was so easy. The B+ I received in U.S history was so much more valuable than any of the A’s I received in my first two years.

I am frightened by the thought of what I would be if my grandfather had not moved in with us a couple of years ago. Ironically, I was angry when my father announced that his father, Patrick, was moving back from Guyana to our house. I was angry and selfish. I did not want to share food with a new resident of the house. Within a week, we became best friends. His greeting is always cool and warm: “Wasssup, Big T.”

I reply, “Wassup, G-Pa.”

He will most likely follow that up with a joke about how much I eat. Or he will ask me a question about history or current events. Or we will argue over football. G-Pa doesn’t understand the game as much as I do, but he still has a great time watching and cheering against what ever team I want to win. The real family fun begins when the Dallas Cowboys play the New York Giants. For some odd reason my grandfather has taken a serious liking to the Dallas Cowboys. I remember one cold November night the Cowboys and the Giants were getting ready to square off in a huge NFL battle. My grandfather sat right next to me and began his trash talking. Of course, I couldn’t just let my grandfather talk smack without any repercussions. I yelled everything I could at the screen about the Cowboys. Dallas won, but that didn’t matter. I still had fun with G-Pa.

Tyler Mackenzie, a junior at Syracuse University, is a 2011 graduate of Half Hollow Hills High School East.

My Reconciliation with the A-Word

By Justin Schnell

Two months before my Bar Mitzvah, I secretly went to my computer and googled “don’t believe in God.” I was driven to Google when I realized that I just didn’t believe in any of the ideals I was memorizing. Little did I know, there were people who called themselves Atheists. I read about them and their ideas matched my own beliefs. I didn’t share my discovery with anyone. I knew it didn’t matter. As a Schnell, I always knew that I would have to become a Bar Mitzvah. I didn’t fight my inevitable ceremony.

Both my parents had gone through the passage of becoming a Bar Mitzvah and were excited to keep the family tradition alive when I turned thirteen. I hated it. As a kid, I didn’t know what to think of the ideals I learned in Hebrew school or at synagogue. Could there really be a God? Could there be someone who controls the world and is responsible for all the poverty, wars and deaths ? If so, why celebrate such a figure?  I fought going to synagogue whenever the time came, telling my parents that I shouldn’t have to go if I don’t believe in the Jewish ideals. Of course, my dad would say “You don’t have to believe them, but you have to be there with your family.”

I never listened. I thought it was stupid. As 7th grade approached, I began studying for my Torah portion, Mishpatim, or ‘Laws’. I hated writing my speech about pointless laws. The more I read and wrote, the more I felt like that A-word.  I got through it by refusing to relate to what I would be preaching and merely memorizing all of my lines so that I didn’t have to hear all the nonsense I was studying. This decision changed my life. Looking back, I reconciled with the idea that the ceremony was an acceptance into my new community and culture and not any kind of affirmation of my beliefs about the world. Now, when I go to synagogue, I don’t sit there thinking everything is stupid. I appreciate the fact that I am surrounded by hundreds of people with the same background as I, all who are glad to be a part of the Jewish community. Come Bar Mitzvah day, I got out of bed excited, performed beautifully in front of the supportive community and joined my friends at the party afterwards, completing one of the best days of my life.

To this day, I do not call myself an Atheist. I am a Jew who questions his religion’s ideals, but understands the importance of being a part of a community with a rich culture. I push my younger brother to read what he is preaching in synagogue and help him with his Torah portion so that one day, he will be a part of the same community. Had I refused this initiation, I wouldn’t be a member of the Jewish community. Everyone needs to feel at home somewhere, be a part of something bigger than yourself, and more importantly, have a community that acts as your second family.

Justin Schnell is a graduate of The Dalton School and is currently a freshman at The University of Michigan

My Friends– the Notebooks

My notebooks and I are inseparable. Look inside and you will find stories from a girl with a heart and a mind of her own. When I write, I create a world where I have complete control and can escape the confines and pressures of everyday life. My story ideas are so fluid that they can come at any time, so I always keep a notebook or my laptop with me to record them.

I have been writing creatively since the third grade when my teacher gave the class an assignment to write a short poem. My poem was called “Spring Time” and it was the first time I really discovered that writing my thoughts or feelings was beneficial to me. It became my way to relax and to escape. I write everyday for a little while and find myself more relaxed and better able to focus. In the fifth grade, my teacher “forced” us to keep a journal, but the requirement was not a problem for me since I was always writing. I wrote to entertain myself.  I also wrote to rebel whenever I got fed up with having to become what society and the world around me expected me to be.

My stories have grown into books that I hope to publish. A major character emerged in my stories. Kasumi, was the result of an innocent idea to break free from the restraints of the world around me. She says the things that I will not say aloud. In her world, she  easily faces and  overcomes all difficulties. Kasumi is opinionated, fearless, and brave. She challenges the idea that women should be seen and not heard.  She breaks boundaries by fighting with guys who attempt to limit her progression. She also has a career and a family,which  she holds together emotionally and physically, just as my grandmother has done.

My grandmother lives by a simple rule: if you don’t like something, open your mouth and say something about it. She does not limit her expression because of society’s expectations. She provides a model for me and helps to define who I am as a young woman. In this way, my grandmother is reflected in Kasumi.

In ninth grade, my modes of expression expanded to acting which complemented my writing. Through acting, I have learned how to communicate physically, verbally, and emotionally. When I act, I am able to fall into the roles and rules of the culture of the time. The characters in my stories are similar to those whose lives I assume onstage. Each one is a representation of me. I started acting with the role of Mrs. Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol as a freshman. Two years later, I received my biggest part yet as a narrator in our production of Romeo and Juliet.

  Through acting and writing I have developed characters that resemble the strong and outgoing women in my family. I have come to realize that writing and acting have helped me to become more independent and self assured. Acting has increased my ability to work through the problems of everyday life.

Onstage, the characters’ feelings and problems become mine. Their voices are mine to convey to the people around me. The freedom of being onstage has enhanced my writing, giving me greater authority in creating scenes that are more realistic. My stories in my notebooks are versions of the world around me that are enlarged by my imagination. I can break the binds of reality by becoming a character on stage or entering a world I create in my notebook. The authority I feel while portraying a character onstage enhances my passion for excitement and adventure created in the universe of my notebooks.

Romea Noel is a graduate of St John’s Preparatory School and is currently a freshman at SUNY Potsdam.

1000 Characters on a Work Experience

Some people might not find managing the flow of golf carts exciting, but I do. The summer after my junior year, I began my first and current job as a cart attendant at a golf course. I ensure that there are enough clean carts for golfers to purchase while monitoring the build up of dirty carts.  My AP Statistics class should be required to work a shift here. My mind taps into the class as I try to make sure there are enough clean carts. This job hones problem solving skills. Pulling in a dead cart off the course without disrupting the flow of play forces me to think outside the box. Also, I interact with many types of people on the job, developing my conversational skills and tolerance of diverse views. I enjoy our conversations about the presidential debates. Obama despondency in the first debate excited Romney fans. I am not a big fan of Romney, but love hearing the diverse views, similar to the multi-dimensional concepts in AP Statistics.

-Jarrett Atkins is now a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill

I interned at Fletcher Asset Management, a New York hedge fund, for three summers. In my first summer of 2009, I did not know what to expect. I only knew the firm asked for evidence of my math proficiency. I was a small, coy, soon-to-be freshman, who had never lived on his own. I lived in an apartment of my mom’s friend. I had to adapt to commuting, managing money, cooking dinner, and dealing with unfamiliar people who were often impatient. Wall Street was hectic in the wake of the housing collapse. However, I enjoyed my job and became much more independent. In my second summer, the fund entrusted me to analyze the collateral value of defaulting mortgages and present potential investments. In my third, I studied the firm’s operations and the options market. Financial skills that I acquired helped me to serve Green Door, a mental illness center where I volunteered last summer. I helped patients sift through financial details about federally provided care.

-Ian Batts will be a freshman at Harvard in September

 

The World School Lens

by Forrest Sprague

I feel at home whenever I travel with my camera. I am in my living room when I capture pieces of the world with my lens.

I was homeschooled. Actually I should call it world-schooled. My mother, a former travel agent, literally turned the globe into my classroom. We spent months in Maine planning trips, studying languages and the next country to visit, making me anxious for adventures beyond Yarmouth, Maine. I have lived and studied in Guatemala, Italy, Spain, France, New York City and 43 of our 50 states.

I was 13 when my father became the Technical Director for NBC coverage of the Olympics in Beijing. My mother hired a Mandarin teacher to prepare us to travel there with my father. I fell in love with Mandarin. Perhaps it was my strong interests in music and the seeming melodic tone of the language. There were also the compelling stories of Chinese literature and history that our teacher, Zhou Li, shared. For my family, studying mandarin was merely preparation for the trip. For me, it was a passion that became more intense during our two months in China, traveling to Xi’An and Suzhou in between exploring Beijing.

A couple of years later, I became as passionate with photography as I was with Mandarin. It happened when my dad gave my mom a Nikon DSLR for Christmas in 2009. Her camera would become my new traveling partner. As I started using the camera more, I saw the world around me as the 16/9 dimensions of a photo. Soon after, I was on a two-month cross-country American road trip. From the frigid winter wonderland of Yellowstone to the windy and barren landscapes of the Grand Canyon, my friend, the camera, was with me.

The size and grandeur of the Grand Canyon amazes people but my camera failed to capture this natural wonder of the world in a way that satisfied me. It was too massive for my skills as a photographer. I ended the journey with lots of pictures that depicted small pieces of a large place. I was disappointed.

My failure to tell the story of the Grand Canyon through photography pushed me when I traveled to China for a second trip. I was 17 when I returned to Beijing for my first trip abroad without my parents.I arrived jet-lagged and a mix-up forced a two-hour wait for Xiao Chunzhi, my teacher and host. After a 45 minute, bumpy cab ride, we finally arrived at the small apartment in an old rundown government housing project. I made myself comfortable on the small futon in the alcove and fell asleep only to be continuously awakened by Xiao who was offering me food. My sick and jet-lagged body only needed sleep. However, as culture and customs dictate, Xiao’s sole mission was to feed the guest out of kindness and duty.

I saw that it sometimes takes more than mastering a language to communicate across cultures. By then, I had studied Mandarin at Bowdoin College, Hunter College and the China Institute in New York. Just as photography challenged me at the Grand Canyon, my linguistics skills faced a cultural hurdle in China. Xiao continued to poke me and point to food and I started to wonder if this trip was really a good idea.

I am so glad I did not surrender to any impulses to go home. Eventually, I picked up my camera and was at home again. I became recharged with a new mission: to integrate the amazing people I met into my pictures of architecture. I soon traveled to Guanghan, where I spent three months teaching English. In the city, I became acquainted with people who would soon become lifelong friends. I captured them next to the San Xing Dui Museum and the City Hall, two of the most famous sights in Guanghan. I expanded my photographic focus of architecture to bringing portraits of people and candid moments prominently in the shots of monuments. I now know what may have been absent from my attempts to document the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. The mission of my lens is now to augment the views of monuments, architecture and sites of the world with the beauty of humanity.

Forrest Sprague, who was home schooled, is a freshman at Pace University.

Learning to Walk, Throw and Love

by Noah Douglass

I learned to walk again at 10, became a receiver at 14 and found a new love at 17. I love the challenges of discovering talents. Yet, for me, pain often precedes a good outcome.

The searing pain in my lower stomach forced me awake at 6:00 every morning. The pain wasn’t even the worst part of it. I was 10-years-old and could not walk.  I sat up and placed my feet on the floor but kept my hands placed on the hospital bed to serve as a platform. I made an effort to move one leg in the direction of the water but lacked the strength and coordination. I used every ounce of energy I had to return to my bed and began to cry almost instantly. The pain from the surgery was excruciating and I was helpless.

Most of my happiness came through sports. In fact, I was on the basketball court with my dad when I was hit with the pain in my stomach that led me to the hospital for the removal of my appendix. After surgery, I spent seven long days learning how to walk and a lesson about optimism that remains with me today.  I forced a positive outlook to get through each step over that week. Three years later, I carried that attitude to the football field as I became a receiver for the St Francis DeSales Stallions. Initially, I was frustrated as I dropped many balls. Yet I remembered what it took to take those few steps out of the hospital bed.

Junior Year: I am expecting a lot more playing time when another completely different problem arose so similar in severity to not being able to walk. My father’s new job means I am leaving the Stallions in Columbus, Ohio for a team I did not know in Montclair, New Jersey. I felt choked in the 4th quarter by the move.

My first day at Montclair High was going to be my last. Or at least, that’s what I told myself. After school, I was going to get my belongings together, hop on a flight, and return to my real home in Ohio. I was going to return to my friends, my football team, my house, and resume life there as if nothing happened. I would daydream about this fantasy through each class but unfortunately obvious questions such as “hey, you’re the new kid?” snapped me back into reality.

My love for the sport overshadowed my defeated outlook as I caught an interception during the first day of football practice. Like learning to walk and becoming a receiver, my optimism propelled me to adapt to a new home.

At first, I was going to write my essay on learning how to walk at age 10. Then I thought about telling the story of my football team winning the state championship this year. After I settled on writing about the similarities of learning how to walk at 10 and becoming a receiver at 14, I decided to expand the topic to include my steamy affair. I hated her. I liked her. Now I can’t live without her–writing.

I’ve always had an interesting relationship with her. There would be times throughout my years of school where I absolutely dreaded the sight of a pen and paper. Now sitting down and letting my thoughts run wildly on paper comes easily and I actually feel great while doing it!

It started in my junior year at the new school I dreaded. There I changed my feelings about writing forever. It started in my 8th period class, no, with my 8th period teacher Mr. Aquavia who inspired the change in those feelings forever. He is arguably one of the best teachers I’ve had and he constantly pushed me to be a better writer. He allowed me to see that writing is simply a way of expressing your ideas on paper. Seeing literature in this perspective intrigued me and I often found myself tagging along after class to perfect papers and strengthen my relationship with my new friend, my new love, Writing.

Now in my senior year, English is my favorite subject. I never thought I would find a new love at Montclair High School, after I spent months dreading the move here. Yet, for me, a little pain often means something great is on its way into my life.

Noah Douglass, a freshman at Syracuse University, is a 2013 graduate of Montclair High School.

The Captain’s Steps

by Ashlynn Sarubbi

Thanks to me, we begin the same step over again. This is my fifth screw up. I reach my tipping point when the captain mocks me in front of everyone:

“Because of Ashlynn, we have to start all over.”

I can take no more. I grab my bag.

“Do it on your own,” I yell at her.

I’m quitting, I tell myself. But I do not make it out of the building without reconsidering my decision. I am not a quitter. In fact, two years later, the girl that messed up the steps that day— me —becomes captain of the Academy of Mount Saint Ursula Step Team. I trace my resilience to the eve of Valentine’s Day, 2005.

I am nine years old sitting on my bed wrapping candy in colored paper when the phone rings. My mom answers and then begins to cry. She grabs her stuff and runs out of the house. It is 8:00 PM. She never leaves the house this late. She returns hours later with news: my father is dead, the victim of a fatal bullet. Instead of crying, I sit in silence in the dark. He has already missed so much. He promised me that he would make it up to me, but he would now miss the rest of my life.

My mother is a police officer. My father was an ex-convict. For as long as I can remember, Dad was always the absent parent. He was imprisoned shortly after my birth, leaving my 18-year-old mother to raise me on her own. He was not released until I was seven. I sometimes found it hard to let go of the resentment. I had grown up without a father for so long that it became normal. Months before his death, I began opening up to him, and our relationship became stronger. He stressed the importance of never giving up and not making the mistakes that he made in life. He told me he had been offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Michigan. He chose another life that landed him in jail. He convinced me to be different and to create a better path than his.

My dad’s poor decisions eventually cost him his life. However, his faults helped me learn how to become the person he dreamed I could be. In reality, he had not let me down completely as he demonstrated what my life could become if I did not follow his advice.

My mother, on the other hand, has always been there for me. She grew up in poverty and was left to raise me alone. She eventually returned to college and became a police officer. My mother demonstrates the value in my father’s theory of not giving up. He didn’t live that life, but Mom displayed it brilliantly, and her model compelled me to stay on the step team that day. After all, my mother has faced many difficulties on her own. So I kept practicing those steps until I perfected them–even when it meant practicing longer and not going out with my friends. In doing so, I follow my mom who made choices that are the opposite of my dad’s. She shows me that it is possible to be strong enough to withstand even the most challenging obstacles and to stay clear of those who may be a distraction to me.

Two years ago, I was en route to leaving the building and quitting the team. Instead, I turned back, knowing that I could not be a quitter. It was not part of who I was or who I wanted to become. With the forgiveness of my coach and the team, I vowed to my teammates that I would never let them down again.

My father once told me I was a “Sarubbi” and I could be whatever I wanted to be. My big moment of triumph came last spring. I sat in a circle talking and playing around with my teammates. My coach called me to the hallway. I became very nervous. When we got to the hallway, he began a speech about what was expected of the team members and the captains. I thought I was being removed from the team. Finally, my coach announced that I had been promoted to Captain of the team.

Ashlynn Sarubbi, a 2013 graduate of Academy of Mount Saint Ursula, is a freshman at Franklin and Marshall.