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Good Habits Live Long

by Griffin Harris

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My identity and story are built on passions and habits. For example, something in my mind and body prevents me from falling asleep without reading the hard copy of the front page of The New York Times every night. If necessary, I will search through the trash to fetch the paper before going to bed. I have always found comfort in the crisp creases and familiar smell of its pages.  I realized the value of this habit as a sophomore in Mr. Greenside’s history class when he asked, “Does anyone know more about John Edwards than what late night shows are currently joking about?” I immediately raised my hand, which was the only one in the air.  Mr. Greenside called on me and my understanding of the dynamics of Edwards came together in an informed response, understanding of the rise and fall of the man.  An epiphany followed this moment—the first time I saw the benefits of all those nights of reading the NYT.

I have always been a man of habits as an athlete and student. It started in fifth grade when I became more aware of my passion for history. We were studying the American Revolution and I was riveted by the social, political, religious, intellectual and economic levers that drove America to become independent.  I searched and found books and documentaries that fed my thirst for the topic and formed habits around researching and connecting the ideas behind conflict, immigration, independence and technology. I loved learning all I could through different investigative passions. My habits grew into a necessary companion to my love of history.

Passions cannot live without supporting habits. History reinforced this rule in my life. In Mr. Greenside’s class, I learned the value of refined routines as the backbone for something that excited me—understanding world events. I have been equally passionate about hockey since I was six and grew to be the accomplished player I am today by developing habits – learning the physics of how a puck moves on ice, stick angles that produce the most accurate shot and feeling my teammates positioning without seeing them.

History and current events became the hockey of my academic life around eighth grade. Friday was my favorite day—current events. From Haiti’s earthquake in 2010 to the Republican takeover of the House, I started getting to know the world as well as I knew the hockey rink by reading the paper every night.

I am reminded of the value of my addiction to the Times when I least expect it.  In my junior year I interviewed to be an intern for the International Rescue Committee, an NGO working to help political asylees and refugees rebuild their lives in America.  In explaining why I wanted the job, I drew on my awareness of global challenges and discussed immigration issues with confidence.  Just like I hit the ice with conviction, knowing I have taken my fingernail and scratched the edges of my skate blades to make sure they are sharp, I was able to tackle my interview with confidence, thanks to my nightly ritual with the Times.

As an intern, I was assigned to be a counselor for children of refugees from all over the world—Egypt, Tibet, India, Nepal, Cameroon, Guinea.  I served them well, knowing the deep roots and context of their fears.  Amr is 10 and worried about family members still in Egypt.  My job was to try to take his mind off the stories that may stir his fears, as well as to understand him and those fears.

I never know when a good habit will become the source of comfort to a 10-year-old like Amr, or lead to a great moment in class, or a strong job interview. I am certain that I will discover new passions and thus develop more habits. For now, I also know that my college roommate will learn not to throw out the trash with the day’s New York Times.

 Griffin Harris, a graduate of Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, is a freshman at American University.

Twin Views of George Washington University

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by Brandon and Parris Lloyd

I am not dining at Le Diplomate on 14th Street in Washington DC or Dominique Bouchet on the Champs Elysees. I am 12 years old, sitting in Applebee’s. I begin speaking to myself–in French.  I translate as much of the menu as I can before my friends arrive.

It was Love at the First Class. I started studying French in Sixth Grade and it became my passion. Whenever I was alone, I spoke to myself in French. Eventually, thinking in French became second nature. French classes were not enough. I started listening to audio tapes. When I made my first trip to Paris at 14, my passion for the study of the language and culture grew even stronger.

At George Washington, I would hope to participate in GW’s Paris Business Studies Program. In fact, I am drawn to George Washington since it combines my love of French culture with my interest in business in a specific program. During my tour, I met students with passions for various languages and different cultures, which made me feel at home. I see the community itself at GW as interconnected and diverse. Having students in class from different parts of the globe will be an eye opening experience for me, allowing me to become more cosmopolitan in my thinking and academic approaches.

I am also attracted to GW largely because of the School of Business faculty. I am excited by the opportunity to take classes such as Global Focus, Business Law and Ethics, and Investment and Portfolio Management with such accomplished professors, including a senior economist for the World Bank to a business studies language expert in charge of the GW CIBER Business French module. My interests in French and business would lead me to seek the vast research opportunities for undergrads, which provide additional ways to learn from such a strong faculty.

My visit to the George Washington campus demonstrated many other appealing qualities. The location in Washington DC is ideal as it offers many opportunities, such as meeting with government officials through off-campus events or brown bag luncheons. My social interactions with students during my visit showed firsthand the qualities of students drawn to the energetic atmosphere and close-knit community. The students noted that student organizations and clubs play a significant role university life. I would become involved with the Civic House program, GW French Club, and the GW Finance and Investment club. These clubs would build on my high school extra-curricular activities. Currently, I am involved with the White Plains Youth Council, the White Plains Youth Court, and many other community service programs.

George Washington University– from the extra curricular offerings to the academics–is the ideal place. I have toured many schools with impressive programs. Yet when I consider what I want from a college education, George Washington is best suited to my interests.

 Brandon Lloyd, a graduate of White Plains High School, is currently a freshman at George Washington University along with his twin, Parris.

UntitledWhen I started my college search, I opposed looking at any urban campuses. I wanted to be surrounded by the ‘rolling greens’ seen in college movies. That changed when I visited George Washington in March, and my view of the ideal college was redefined by the historical sites in DC and the blending of cultures—political, urban and academic. I am drawn to GW for the model ways that the school immerses itself within the cultures of Washington DC.

At GW, I will get the best of both worlds: a city campus and a green campus as well. If DC life ever became too much, I could always go to the Mount Vernon Campus, where I can imagine my lungs consuming the scent of freshly-cut grass as I walk. On another day, I see myself eagerly racing to Cross-Cultural Psychology or Developmental Psychopathology. Afterwards, I go to a Class Council meeting to put the finishing touches on plans for an upcoming fundraiser. Then I go to my Women’s Leadership program meeting to explore ways to grab our peers’ attention to the issues important to our organization. At the end of my day, I’ll be exhausted, but fulfilled, knowing I’m taking advantage of what GW has to offer academically, residentially, and extracurricularly.

GW provides a plethora of opportunities for me as a psychology major. I was excited to find a research requirement, and opportunities to be part of cutting-edge research even as a student. By making research a requirement, the school demonstrates its devotion to making sure students are proactive in their fields.

The connections that GW has made with surrounding embassies and corporations make for internship opportunities I haven’t seen at other schools, which will allow me to be even more proactive in my field. I am excited by the fact that GW offers internships for any focus, which will allow me to start building work experience as early as freshman year. While visiting, I met a student interning with the American Psychological Association. He said GW helped him find the internship.

Diversity is important to me, and I want to go to a school where diversity isn’t just black and white—where the culture of the university is influenced by many ethnicities. GW does more than accepting students of different backgrounds; it encourages those students to share their culture with others. Beyond its worldwide connections, GW is a global community because of the various multicultural clubs, groups, and activities that thrive on campus.

I am drawn to GW for its academics, opportunities, and location in our nation’s capital. What really sold me was my overnight experience. I met so many students who love the GW community and fully embrace the friends they have made. Observing the GW students made a lasting impression on me.

 Parris Lloyd, a graduate of Ursuline High School in New Rochelle, is a freshman at George Washington University along with her twin, Brandon.

Like Uncle, Like Brother

by AJ Zerka

zerkaAt six, Uncle Dan lost his left eye in a freak accident, which led to many surgeries. Doctors called him “Superman” because he never cried. I always felt strange calling him uncle because we’re only nine years apart. He is more like the brother I never had since I’m an only child. We have been inseparable since the time I was old enough to walk and talk. His courage in the face of challenge influences the way I handle adversity. Considering the story of my life, Dan has been, without a doubt, one of the greatest influences.

Our bonding time comes largely through travel. We both enjoy the adventure of new places, including Spain, Mexico, Florida, and California. In February, we were lost in Paris for our first trip alone. Neither of us speaks French. We were in a subway station trying to manage our way to the Eiffel Tower, and neither of us knew where to go. Finally after a joint effort, we found our way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. When we finally got to the top it was getting dark and we felt the February wind. We saw the city’s lights slowly twinkling on and laughed that a whole afternoon had gone by in our confusion.

For me, school has not produced the kind of challenges that Dan faced. His resolve inspires me; in particular, his ability to navigate school. School administrators and students treated him like an outsider because of his learning disabilities, while I am a guy that can get along with mostly anyone. He has been told “no” his whole life, whether it was school, driving, or work. Yet he has persevered. Dan has a license, and works 16 hours a day at the airport trying to realize his dream of becoming an airplane mechanic. His work ethic motivates me to push myself in school and at work. When homework assignments pile up and I feel like procrastinating, I think of him and keep going.

Dan, being very shy and quiet, doesn’t usually defend himself. This compels me to be more assertive. When we are together, I often have to step up and take a leadership role. A couple of years ago we were together in a clothing store. “Sir, can I help you find anything?” an employee asked Dan. My uncle wasn’t able to process the question quickly enough and the employee snickered at the long pause. I had to speak up. “Excuse me, what’s the problem? Not everyone has the same abilities as you. There is no need to laugh.” The clerk quickly apologized. Without expressing it, I knew Dan appreciated my actions.

My sensitivity to others has grown up alongside my relationship with Dan. Seeing the effects of bullying has made me more aware of my own actions and words. When I start to lose patience with someone, thoughts of my uncle often come to mind and I become more understanding.

I also witnessed my most terrifying moment in his presence. Recently, when sleeping over at my house, Dan had a seizure for the first time ever. I had never witnessed one before and was frightened. I could only imagine the worst. Considering the possibility of life without him was painful. As a lifeguard, I am certified in first aid but was too traumatized to act. Thankfully, the paramedics came and he survived. Although I was too numb to act in the moment, I have pledged to myself that I will be ready to act if anything like this happens to anyone around me in the future.

Through Dan, I have learned that compassion isn’t inherited, or taught at school, but rather something that is gained through experiences with people. My experiences with him have formed my appreciation of others and my ability to see the unique gifts of individuals.

AJ Zerka, a graduate of Ardsley High School, is a freshman at Fairfield University.

The Football Way

by Bryce Joyner

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Whether I’m creating campaigns for Marriott to reach Generation Y, or selling solar water heaters in impoverished African villages, I view the challenges in my life as if they were playing out on an imaginary football field. Football isn’t my only sport. Yet, looking at my life, the thoughts of downs, tackles, and touchdowns parallel the narrative.

Let’s start at third down. Ball on our one-yard line. My coach signals I can initiate a cornerback blitz if I want to take the risk, or stay on my receiver and play it safe. I take the risk.

My foundation as a risk-taker was shaped as a child in Baldwin, New York. On weekends I played big games of hide-and-go-seek with my pack of friends. In finding my spots to hide, I anticipated my seeker’s motions just like I would a receiver’s routes. It looked like he was running a slant. I noticed the quarterback’s eyes, and immediately jumped into the passing lane.

“Ready or not, here I come!” My friend Brandon finds friends one by one, but where was I? My hiding spot was Mr. Emory’s backyard. He was a cranky man without children. No one would think to search there out of fear. I win that round.

1st and 10: I was in 4th grade, loving life. My utopia was on the verge of termination. “I’m going to marry Jacques. We’re moving to Ridgewood, New Jersey to live with him,” my mother tells me. I receive the handoff and fumble.

2nd and ten: The challenge of adapting to Ridgewood is the next play, and it’s a long one. Ridgewood was different from Baldwin in many ways. Baldwin was ethnically diverse, while I was one of the few African-Americans in Ridgewood. Ridgewood kids listened to different music and communicated through iChat. Sports became my social savior.

3rd and two: By 15, I’m comfortable in Ridgewood. I’m a respected athlete and don’t feel racially isolated. My mom pushes me out of my comfort zone again, forcing me to apply to the Leadership Education and Development program. I caught the ball at the University of Maryland in College Park, the site of the program. LEAD was my 761 Vertical. My quarterback hit me in stride, and so did LEAD.
Our big project was creating social media strategies to attract more Generation Y customers to Marriott hotels. We spent long nights working on our presentation skills to get ready for the judges, who were actual Marriott employees. In the meantime, I took classes on marketing, supply chain management, and finance.

3rd week, Presentation day: This was the big competition that we all had come to win. I presented the competitors’ social media strategies and our main idea to enhance their app for smartphone users. I nailed it. I learned a ton about business. A good start to the drive.

1st and 10, Ball on 35-yard line: I applied for another LEAD Program, but this was in Cape Town, South Africa. My group’s assignment was to present a sales pitch to sell solar water heaters in impoverished villages. We met the entrepreneur who created these water heaters and traveled to a village where they had become an absolute necessity. This was a sad place. I witnessed two little boys playing with a handgun, running around pretending to shoot each other. When we gave our presentation days later, our professor complimented my animated sales tactics. The risk I took in making this second LEAD trip confirmed my desire to study business. My quarterback hits me for a gain of 12. We call a timeout. Our kicker comes onto the field.

He lines up. The ball is snapped. The ball goes up. I’m busy fixing my helmet and can’t tell if it went through or not. All I know is that it’s halftime. Time for us to make adjustments, just like I will in college.

Bryce Joyner is a freshman at Tufts and a graduate of Ridgewood High School.

The Life of a Commute

by Jourdan Espeut

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When I bound out of my house to begin my 75 minute commute every morning, the neighborhood is dreary and empty. I find comfort on my tree-shaded block of well-kept row houses. Since birth, I have lived in the house Mom has called home since she arrived in Brooklyn from Panama 45 years ago.

I try to picture Mom’s stories of the good old days in East New York, as I leave my block and pass the massive housing projects in front of the bus stop. I never bother looking at the schedule. The bus comes as it pleases so I leave extra early. I crave iced coffee, but can’t find a good cup until later.

It is a speedy ride to New Lots Avenue where I catch the 3 train.

“Hey girl, whatcha readin’?” says today’s suitor, as I bury my nose in The Invisible Man.  

Like, do you even care what I’m reading? “Not interested,” I respond.

I should actually thank those guys that hound me every morning. They give me great practice in maintaining composure in challenging environments. Take the basketball games when I am greeted by snarky comments from rival cheerleaders: “Your uniforms suck.”

I ignore them just as I dismiss those baffled by my cheerleading. My friends at the Writing Center, where I was selected to serve as a tutor, argue that cheerleading is “superficial.”  I disagree and keep cheering.

A screeching halt brings me back to reality.  After a handful of stops on the 3 train, I’m onto the 4 train at Utica Avenue. The doors open with a loud bing. I’m instantly shoved in all directions. Finding a seat is like animal feeding time. Standing or sitting, I read or daydream.

I remember when Mom used to ride with me to The Little Red Schoolhouse, as my train stops in Lower Manhattan. I was one of three African American students in my grade. In those innocent days, I never felt different. I left Little Red for public middle school, where most of my classmates were black and Latino.  Many of them hated me. There was the girl who wrote “Oreo” in sharpie on my locker. I drove myself to get strong scores so I could attend a high school with students that would not equate good grades with whiteness. My hard work paid off with admission to my first choice: Eleanor Roosevelt (ELRO).

My commute now extends to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Knowing it is almost over once I reach 42nd street, I dart across the platform and squeeze myself into any space that’s left on the 6 train.

I was excited about high school.  Finally, people who won’t judge me for loving academics. Yet I went from being “too white”  in middle school to, ironically, “too black”  for many at ELRO. I endured every stereotypical black joke in the book: “If you had a superpower it’d be flying through the air with a noose around your neck.”

However, I stopped listening, dismissing those comments as if they came from a morning suitor. I made a diverse set of friends and jumped into writing, student government and, yes, cheerleading.

My daydream ends.  I finally get out at 77th street and it’s a breath of fresh air.  Trendy boutiques and Starbucks stand on every corner. I happily order my regular iced coffee and talk to the staff. Suddenly, I’m not traveling alone; I’m flanked by friends on each arm, and I feel confident.

Both ends of my commute produce my sense of security.  When I arrive on my block after the ride home, I see Miss Peggy, a neighbor I have known forever who loves to share books with me. Her greetings are always a reminder that where I come from is not at all negative; it has helped shape me into the resilient, driven individual I am today.

Jourdan Espeut, a graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt High School, is a freshman at The New School.

The Character of My Boat

by Jack Bushell

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Boats are like movie cameras and can grow into films or stories themselves. When you think a boat’s life is over–dead, think again; its ending grows into a new beginning. Boats can have many lives, as long as their captain has a dream and a good work ethic.

A couple of years ago, I purchased my first boat ever. My mom thought it would never see the life of water again, and was fit for a dumpster. Yet I am a dreamer and a filmmaker who saw another story resting in the old wood.  At first glance on Craigslist,  I dreamed beyond two quarter-sized holes, rusty brown metal bolts and peeling dusty chips of paint. I called the owner and bargained him down from 275 to 100.  In one day, I turned it into my dream with a freshly coated white outside and a clean black line that outlined the sides of the boat like a ribbon. The inside was sky blue, meshing perfectly with the outside.  I named it Reel Time.

I know dreams do not come true without hard work like sanding Reel Time for two hours. Once ridding her of the old dry paint, I added two coats of black paint on the bottom for protective coating. This completed a rebirth and created a new life for Reel Time.

Boats and fishing have been my passions since 5th grade. My love of film unfolded when I started my school’s television station last year.  Yet I can’t always divorce my attraction to film from the sea.  Last year, my English class read The Sound of Waves, which tells the story of a boy coming of age with the dream to captain his own fishing boat. As I read, my own dreams compelled me to bring the story to life in a film.

I visualized my camera following someone on a boat rocking up and down with a fishing pole.  I dreamed of shots of the harbor and the water reflecting in the sun. The next morning, I wrote the script after finishing my scrambled eggs. A few days later, my best friend, Zack, became an actor and the star of my film. Zack had never driven a boat, so I was driving and filming at the same time with the waves bouncing the boat up and down and the wind blowing the hat off my head. After two days of shooting and two nights of editing, The Sound of Waves came to life as a four-minute film.

While I love boats, I also tell stories through film beyond the water and live much of my life away from the sea. Yet fishing and boating influence my work ethic at school and as a three-sport athlete. Boating has nurtured my patience and persistence. While I don’t win Lacrosse games by holding a fishing rod, the lessons from the sea sail with me on the field, and set a model for the rule that hard work produces results.

Reel Time can also become a big story when she hits the water. Take Independence Day 2012. The story starts with a clear blue sky–ripe for fishing on Long Island Sound. I don’t have my camera, but I directed my own slideshow in my mind. As always the water and weather are major characters in the story. At one moment, I feel the sun’s heat. Five minutes later, the sky darkens. A new scene:  I dart towards Connecticut’s shores to avoid the storm. The waves were still crashing over the front of the boat and I was still getting sprayed with salt water. Within seconds, the water formed 2-foot waves, knocking our boat around. I paused to beat out the storm until it was safe to return to dock and end this story. Certainly Reel Time will help shape many more narratives in both my life and hers.

Jack Bushell, a freshman at Emerson College, is a 2014 graduate of Redwood High School.

 

Saving the Tempo

by Kyndall Ashe

 

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“We’re leaving.”

“Leaving?”

“Leaving.”

His voice struck me like a bullet through a wall of glass, shattering the peace I felt in the beginning of my junior year.  George was the musical arranger and de-facto leader of Tempo Tantrum, the student-led a cappella group to which we both belonged.  Now he was taking two of our strongest members away to start another group. These three were the “glue” of the group. Without them, everyone expected Tempo to collapse. But I would not let this happen on my watch.

I was determined to save Tempo, fighting what seemed to be the inevitable end of our group. My attitude in this situation mirrored my determination to take the most demanding courses available at my school in lieu of taking the easy route through high school. My love for math and Latin kept me on the advanced academic track in school. Now my passion for music drove me to take a leadership role in keeping Tempo alive.

I trace this passion to moment in fifth grade when I nervously stepped up to the microphone at my school’s weekly Chapel service to sing the Star Spangled Banner. The rush I felt mid-verse was a incomparable feeling. In that magical moment, I felt confident yet serene, powerful and at peace, and I knew music would mean the world to me forever.

However, I needed more than my passion for music to save my group, so I drew on my leadership skills and thought outside of the box. The group would be losing members, so I decided to consider the potential of freshmen–a group of students traditionally excluded from Sidwell’s a cappella groups– in the audition process, which I organized. Initially no one thought Tempo could compete in the world of a cappella at Sidwell with a large number freshmen members. However these words of discouragement sounded shockingly familiar. When I was new to the school as a 9th grader, I decided to run for Student Government representative despite being told that my class–comprised of mostly returning students–had a deeply rooted dynamic that would prove to be difficult to decipher in one year. I defied the advice, delivering a speech before all of my new classmates about the power a fresh voice and a new perspective could have when it came to representing the class. Winning that election was an extremely eye-opening moment.

This experience showed me that even unseasoned freshmen could be assets to keeping Tempo alive. When our three most important members left, we also lost several of our remaining junior members. The most talented upperclassmen were already taken by other groups, and we didn’t have an arranger. So I quickly organized auditions open to freshmen, discovering great untapped talent, and took on the role of arranger.

I arranged the music for our first concert, but the performance was not indicative of  the potential I saw in our group. As the year continued the group improved, and though we struggled at times to keep the rowdy freshmen focused at rehearsals, it was certainly a learning experience for my co-head and me, and in the end our group was able to survive.

Now, in my senior year, not only does Tempo survive, but it also thrives. For our first concert of the year I discovered an arrangement by Pentatonix, a group whose sound Tempo has always desired to model. Using an already-made arrangement made it so that I was able to teach my fellow members their parts in a much more timely manner, and I was able to devote more of my time to directing. Our performances are now revered for recreating the sounds of popular music with just the voices of twelve high schoolers. After our Winter concert this year, I was actually approached by George with words of praise. I even detected a hint of regret in his voice.

Tempo is now considered one of the top performing groups in our school and region. Tempo’s survival and success came from the same tenacity and self-determination that have defined me throughout my school career. I drew on my identity as a leader unafraid of a challenge, and followed my passion to truly make a difference in my school community. I certainly plan to do it again!

 

Kyndall Ashe, a freshman at Amherst is a graduate of the Sidwell Friends School.

 

Supplemental Essays: Amherst and Duke

Write for the Future essayists Anton Kliot (left) and Calvin Thompson (right)

Write for the Future essayists Anton Kliot (left) and Calvin Thompson (right)

Amherst Supplemental Essays

By Anton Kliot

Amherst gave applicants the opportunity to respond to a quotation in an essay of not more than 300 words. The instructions stated, “It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.”

Anton chose the following quote: “Rigorous reasoning is crucial in mathematics, and insight plays an important secondary role these days. In the natural sciences, I would say that the order of these two virtues is reversed. Rigor is, of course, very important. But the most important value is insight—insight into the workings of the world. It may be because there is another guarantor of correctness in the sciences, namely, the empirical evidence from observation and experiments.”

Kannan Jagannathan, Professor of Physics, Amherst College

Sitting in the shade of a tree in Central Park with two close friends, I absentmindedly pick up a fallen leaf and begin crumpling it in my hands. With that, a seed begins to form in my mind. As I look at the tree overhead, I think of the immense amount of solar energy necessary to its growth—yet this leaf could disintegrate into debris with little energy input.

I look up at a crumbling, pre-war building a hundred meters away. Hours, days, months, even, of manual labor and tons of fossil fuels had gone into its construction; yet it would take only time and the persuasion of the elements to break down into dust. This, I realize, is free energy in action. To build things, natural or man-made, to move from chaos towards structure, requires energy. However, it is the tendency of the world–the universe even—to regress towards disorder.

When my professor initially taught the concept of free energy, I was perplexed. I vaguely understood that entropy stood for chaos, and enthalpy for energy, but beyond that I was stumped. What were these values? And why did they determine the spontaneity of reactions? I learned the equations provided, and how to tackle basic problems, but without grasping entropy’s role in the reactions of the world around me I found true understanding of the concept elusive.

The power of insight lives in its ability to grow outside of the normative places where we expect to foster revelations, such as classes and labs. Ultimately, it was that day in the park, as much as any classroom experience, that  bolstered my understanding. My passion for chemistry comes not from solving equations, but from the insight into the workings of the world I have gained, both in and out of the lab.

Duke Supplemental Essays

By Calvin Thompson

1.) Please discuss why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something in particular at Duke that attracts you? (Please limit your response to no more than 150 words.)

I love many things, but learning and sports top the list. The moment I stepped onto Duke’s campus, I leaned over to my mother, gasping, and said, “Whoa,” even before beginning my tour. I was stunned to immediately see signs of my loves everywhere. My dreams of tenting in K-Ville for the annual Duke-UNC game almost made my mouth water. As for learning, the cross-disciplinary study options that Duke offers ignite my passions. I have always loved business, and as I have aged, I discovered a deep interest in education. At Duke, I saw the opportunity to combine these two interests in many ways. I would love to initiate lunches with Professor Elizabeth Garcia, whose work focuses on educational motivation, and Mark T. Brown, Director of the Management Communications Center. Exploring commonalities in business and educational spheres would be uplifting, and will engage all of my most profound interests.

2.) Please discuss one of your extracurricular activities that has required a particularly significant time commitment or that has played a meaningful role in your personal development. (Please limit your response to no more than 150 words.)

I struggled academically in middle school. So, in my sophomore year of high school, I started a tutoring program for 6-8th grade African-American and Latino students, who, like me at their age, were experiencing difficulties in school. I noticed at the high school level, I was among a tiny number of students of color taking honors and advanced classes. However, this problem  clearly started earlier. To solve it, I thought about what I wished I had in middle school: privacy and attention. I provided this so my students could receive help without feeling like they were “idiots” compared to their peers. Since beginning the program, I have tutored the same kids for 3 years. All my students have improved their grades and are on track for honors level classes in high school. Watching them work hard and succeed has been the most gratifying experience of my life thus far.

Faith & Science: Stages For My Imagination

By Laura Telfer

UntitledI take a deep breath, close my eyes, and unlock my imagination. I allow my mind and body to become one, harmonize with my surroundings, and enable myself to find that place where I am perfectly content. Exhale. As I recollect, I am drawn to a scene from a movie. I try to concentrate on that image, but various sounds overwhelm my senses. A patch of blue dominates my vision. Suddenly, I am submerged in water. My eyes sting, and my imagination consumes my body. Silence. When I open my eyes, my senses are enlightened by the ocean’s clarity. I lift my head and am greeted by two familiar faces, Marlin the Clownfish and Crush the Turtle.

All things Finding Nemo are scattered about my bedroom––posters, stuffed animals and even a night light. Their presence causes the best scenes to replay in my mind when I meditate. I let my imagination explore and relive the lessons Marlin learned through his journey. Marlin’s experiences renewed his enthusiasm; he became a passionate, lively, and risk-taking child again. I no longer see him, but myself, learning the value of a creative engagement with life.

Imagination is the infrastructure of reality. When I teach at my church, I use my imagination to craft puppet shows for the children to keep them engaged with the material. I put a screen between the door and place a puppet in my dominant hand. I usually play the role of Fireball the Dragon, who often gets himself stuck in sticky situations. With the help of Ponder the Blue Monster, Fireball and the children learn the importance of friendship and Christian values. It makes me happy when I see them laughing and listening attentively during the show. My imagination allows me to connect with the kids on a more personal level, which helps me expand their horizons.

My creativity has also helped me throughout my science career. Last summer, I was selected to work with NASA engineers on eight extensive web-based assignments, which included designing a lunar colony, a Crew Transport Vehicle, and a space shuttle. At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, I helped wire a rover that had an external structure of Legos and cardboard. I suggested adding the radiation shield of aluminum foil. Team Curiosity and I programmed the robot to respond to the inputs of a control pad, and we entered a challenge that required our robot to pick up Moon rocks and water samples under timed conditions.

When the competition began, our rover refused to cooperate and went out of bounds many times. Even after reprogramming it and replacing its arm, Curious George still could not pick up the rocks and bring them back to home base. Our failure was disheartening, but I didn’t let this experience discourage me from pursuing a STEM career.

I turned toward science when my mom was diagnosed with Lupus. Her symptoms did not become obvious until I was in middle school, and she began having difficulty climbing the stairs by herself. A year later, she started chemotherapy. Watching my mom battle with this has been extremely difficult, and I intend to use my knowledge of Lupus to treat others that are struggling. I will use my creativity to design advanced medical machinery that will save lives and help patients cope with pain.

Some days I wish I could go back in time to the childhood days with the adventure and curiosity that my unbounded mind translated into an undying love for Finding Nemo.  While my movie preferences have changed, my imagination is still here and still constitutes the environments where I feel most content. I build robots, play with puppets, and find inventive ways to convey my visions. Science labs and church are just two among many stages where I perform, and my imagination is still the foundation of all my shows.

Laura, a graduate from Jackson Liberty High School, is currently a freshman at Cornell.

The Choreography of My Dreams

By June Liu

juneAs I adjust my tutu backstage and stare down at my bare feet, the combination strikes me as odd. Doesn’t a performance of “La Esmeralda” always require ballet slippers? Can elements of ballet coexist with “Wild Dances,” a Ukrainian pop folk song––a far cry from Pugni? These unorthodox pairings are the result of a piece I choreographed in junior year that intersected ballet, jazz, and modern dance.

The creative risk-taking and the blending of disciplines exemplified in my dance mirror my versatile academic passions and how I hope to study them. I am drawn to the opportunity at Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences to design my own curriculum so I can immerse myself in economics, film studies, and classical studies.

My career goals will require this wide breadth of knowledge. I am interested in going into film distribution and starting my own production company. I plan on partnering my limitless creativity with my strong critical thinking and quantitative skills to help film companies finance inspirational projects. I believe Cornell’s Economics program will help cultivate my entrepreneurial spirit.

Behavioral Economics as a field and class intrigues me. While perusing the “Memorable Courses” webpage, I was fascinated by a blurb written about how the class taught the student to consider human decision-making in new ways. As a filmmaker, choreographer, and journalist, I am constantly looking at what influences people’s decisions in order to portray characters and their journeys vividly. I look forward to also exploring decision-making in a quantitative manner. The education Cornell would provide me is unique because of the different contexts through which I can study economics. Not only would I gain a broad understanding in CAS by taking foundational courses, but I would also be able to explore cross-listed courses between CAS and ILR such as Labor Market Analysis, where I would benefit from hearing the perspectives of ILR students.

I recognize that to become a film distributor it is important to learn about the medium itself. I was excited to find that film courses at CAS are interdisciplinary, overlapping with departments ranging from American Studies in the class “Americans Abroad,” to Computer Science in “Computing in the Arts.” These classes would enable me to study the influence and creation of films through multiple lenses, enhancing my creativity and adaptability.

Film is exciting to me because, like dance, it is a space where I can experiment comfortably and take creative and intellectual risks such as blending genres. This past summer, I incorporated a light tone into a dramatic film I wrote and directed that explores a teenage girl’s body image issues. My portrayal of the protagonist’s transition from a quirky, happy-go-lucky student to an insecure self-harmer ended up being much more powerful than a flat depiction of her would have been. This experience reinforced the significance of fusing together different styles, such as comedy and tragedy.

I am also passionate about classical languages and civilization because these areas of study help me make interesting connections to present literature and current events; they provide wisdom on how to approach the future. While reading the play A Streetcar Named Desire in English this fall, I was one of few students who understood that the street called Elysian Fields was an allusion to a section of the underworld in Greek mythology. My seven years studying Latin allowed me to gain a more stimulating reading of the play. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of CAS courses, I know I will be able to apply what I learn in my classics studies to film and economic theories. Pursuing the broad and personalized course load that Cornell encourages would serve me well as my passions and career goals require many different skill sets and types of knowledge.

June, a 2014 graduate of the Nightingale-Bamford School, is currently a freshman at Cornell.