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Finding My Weapon

By Justin Lowe

381329_42When I was 5, my older cousins called me “Little Satan.” I loved jumping off high places and climbing in laundry baskets. Yet, my favorite was sliding down  handrails wearing a helmet. But perhaps I should have been called little vampire. I would sink my teeth into walls, pencils, pens, and even people. I don’t bite things anymore, but I strike with precision in fencing. My energy as a kid has been channeled into the power and speed that is critical in fencing. However, the real weapon is my mind.

I don’t know if I would have made the transition from satan to vampire to fencer without the influence of my grandfather. Grandpa Riley was a leader everywhere he went. When I was eight, I was at one of my Grandpa’s poker games. When he spoke, everyone stopped and listened. He told a captivating story about being with the first black Marine unit fighting in the Korean War. He entered his first battle and got shot in the arm. He continued to fight, and encouraged his fellow brothers in arms to fight on until they had to retreat. For the next Halloween, I got all my friends to dress up as the Power Ranger team so we could be heroic like Grandpa.

When I was nine, I was elected captain of my little league baseball team. I was intimidated by the job. Grandpa told me, “If you want to lead others, you must have a strong heart and not be scared of others.” That helped me feel more relaxed, but didn’t do much for my baseball skills. My brother was the home run hitter. I was a strikeout pitcher that could not hit a ball for the life of me.

Grandpa encouraged me to find a sport that would exercise both my energy and intelligence. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a chance to see the change that came into my life once I found fencing. He passed away when I was in sixth grade. It was the darkest time of my life.  Two months after my grandfather’s death, my parents divorced. I had to leave behind all my friends in Central Islip, NY, when my mom and I moved to Howell, New Jersey.

The life that was falling apart came back together at camp that summer after sixth grade when I was introduced to fencing. It was  amazing to learn the tricks in the air like in Pirates of the Caribbean. With fencing, I could learn how to swordfight properly. I moved to New Jersey with fencing as my new love and found a home at the Jersey Fencing Division, recommended by my summer camp coach.

Fencing helped me survive one of the darkest periods in my life. After winning my first tournament in eighth grade, I broke down in tears. I was happy, but I wished my grandpa was there with me. He would be proud to see my improvement over the last 6 years.

Now I am far beyond the dark period, but fencing has remained a strong part of my life. When I fence I am consumed with feelings of strength and courage. The sport also promotes my concentration and has taught me to take control of problems. When I am not fencing, I sometimes employ the breathing exercises to help me relax and get through any moments of sadness and anger.

I’ve been to two national tournaments and was recently selected to become the captain of my team’s men’s sabre and epee divisions. I have won 10 tournaments in the past three years.  But I’m not done yet. I am determined to be nationally ranked and go to the Olympics. When I release myself in a tournament, I may not be Little Satan but I am a man for opponents to fear.


Justin Lowe, a graduate of Freehold Township High School, is a freshman at Sacred Heart University.

Why are you here and nowhere else?

By Conner Chapman

image1I felt like I was in a Dr. Seuss book walking the hallways of Google’s Chicago office last summer. The sleek, white modern architecture contrasted the vibrantly-colored bean bag chairs, producing a creative and inviting environment.  I visited Google Chicago with the LEAD business program at the University of Illinois. My peers and I prepared presentations for a team competition to determine who could most effectively sell Google to an educational institution.

The LEAD Experience brought me “here.” It awakened my drive to enter the world of business. I guess you might say that I’ve always been a businessman, using my naturally expert negotiating skills in getting a ride home from friends or dividing three slices pizza left for two people. At LEAD, I met executives, managers, and entry-level employees in large companies; however, the experience also made me curious about small startup businesses. I hope to explore the multi-faceted roles of entrepreneurs by creating my own startup.

There was another place surging through my consciousness when I was at LEAD that helps to complete my sense of “here.”  It is where I learned how to fry chicken, cook collard greens, and set tables: the Bridge Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The teachers were my grandmother’s friends at the curch. Since middle school, I have been part of a community of volunteers at the soup kitchen operated by Bridge Street. I cook, serve, wash dishes, and mop floors. Often, I am the youngest volunteer and the only teenager. In fact, most of the fellow workers are beyond 60. Sometimes we serve peers my age. When I was younger, we talked about toys. Now we discuss sports, Hip-Hop and video games. The elders love to bestow lessons on the lone teenager like: “We are all God’s Children.” Though I am not as religious as the elders, I politely nod as if I have never questioned the existence of God.

How could I create a national organization pooling the talents of people I met at Bridge Street with the goal of ending hunger in a way that could be profitable for an organization? I am “here” to pose that question in the process of pursuing my academic interests in finance and management. In other words, how do I combine the missions ingrained in two of the most meaningful experiences in my life–LEAD and the Bridge Street Soup Kitchen? I am here to discover solutions to world hunger on a much larger scale than I ever could at Bridge Street.

I hope to start a business that will possess its own unique blend of creativity, compassion and profits as I am “here” to build a future that combines my capitalist drive with a commitment to ending poverty.


Conner Chapman, a graduate of Long Island’s St Anthony’s High School, is a freshman at the University of Chicago.

Climbing Life’s Ladders

by Erich Perry Siebert

erichsiebertA burst of light blinded my eyes for a few seconds as I climbed out of the darkness of the dusty wooden attic. A soothing breeze brushed against my face as I stepped off the ladder after climbing 10 feet. It was a sunny day so clear that I could see castles in the distance just like the one where I was standing. Just as I absorbed the rich blue skies above large green hills, I turned to find two out of five people in my group removing their equipment.

As an eighth grader, I was the youngest in the delegation of People to People Student Ambassadors travelling through the United Kingdom. We scaled the ladder together for the opportunity to rappel down the wall. Two turned back. I kept going. Since then, I have drawn on the drive of that moment.

Three years later, I decided I had to exert the strength of that moment while facing the challenges of ADHD. The more I agonized through three months of therapy and four different types of medication, I realized that there was not a magic pill for me and my life completely turned around. After much thought, I decided to create an independent study on the impact of holistic well being including mental, physical, and nutritional health on the ADHD experience. I set out to actually live the study with a healthier lifestyle, involving a more plant based diet, high intensity workouts, and practiced meditation.

The creation of the plan took the level of dedication I carried through the tall, stone passage, carrying heavy nylon harnesses in my arms a few years ago. It was quite dark and the whole inside of the castle was built with solid brick. Two guiding lanterns replaced any natural light. I didn’t feel nervous, but I was very excited.

Yet, it was a long climb that seemed like it would never end from the spiraling wooden staircase to the ladder. At the top, we stopped to prepare for the trip down the wall. When my name was called to descend, I felt startled. I cautiously made my way to the rope. The closer I came to the edge, I began to feel more and more nervous. I fastened my helmet and one of the instructors opened the trapdoor from the cherry wood ceiling. A ladder fell down to us.

As I finally reached the edge of the castle, I looked down and stared 90 feet down.I could feel my heartbeat throughout my whole body. Every sense in my body kept telling me to walk away, but I couldn’t. I knew if i had made it this far, I was not quitting, no matter how terrifying it seemed.

I now see a finish line in my independent study that resembles my feeling of accomplishment at the bottom of the wall. The research involved interviewing a nutritionist, meditation coach, and a physical trainer as well as reading articles, books , and viewing documentaries. Through my new, carefully designed lifestyle, I started to notice a huge difference and a positive impact on my grades.

When I look at ADHD in the big picture, I don’t see it as a barrier anymore, I see it as a strength. In May of 2014, Forbes’ magazine published an article about the relationship between entrepreneurs and ADHD. The article described ADHD as “the entrepreneur’s superpower.” I learned that entrepreneurs with ADHD hold certain qualities that are necessary to succeed in the business world, including creativity, multitasking, risk taking, a heightened level of energy, and most importantly, resilience–the very factor that led to a successful journey down the ladder.

Erich Perry Siebert, a graduate of Chicago Frances W Parker High School, is a freshman at American University.

Biking from the Park to the Job

by Christopher Lassiter

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The first moment on the job deceives me. I glance around the deserted High Gear Cyclery shop, wondering if keeping myself occupied will be more of a challenge than selling bikes.

I meet Bill, my manager. He smells of cigarettes and coffee when I am within arm’s reach. He shares the basics of advising bikers on nutrition and repairs. Still no customers. His need for nicotine runs high. He exits for a smoke. As Bill puffs outside, a flood of customers enters:

“Can you fix my flat tire?”

“I am looking for a new bike. Can you help?”

I am a nervous and stressed 14-year-old fielding questions from people twice my age, and I love it. Ironically, or maybe not, my first time on a bike is one of my first memories.   

I was four when Pops walked me to the neighborhood basketball court pulling a bike with training wheels for me, while my older brother Jordan rode a two-wheeler. Jordan took a break and I hopped on the two-wheeler while Pops was not looking. After peddling a few feet, I fell. He rushed over. “Are you ok? ” I rose, brushing gravel from my skimmed hand, and persistently pleaded to ride the two-wheeler again. I convinced him. Today Pops says he knew I wouldn’t give up until he said yes. I continued to fall but the short moments of balance were worth the scars. By the end of that day, I rode the two-wheeler without falling.

After nine months of mastering bike sales, Bill designated me to train employees. I loved the new responsibilities but hungered for even more business opportunities. I saw a possibility when a brutal snowstorm hit two years ago.  I looked out my bedroom window to see men with diesel-powered four-wheel-drive trucks rushing from house to house, salting driveways, and using sharp metal plows to cut through the thick ice and snow. Do they really need all that equipment for such a simple job? I thought to myself. Why do they deserve to monopolize business on MY block?!

I answered that question by starting my own snow removal business. I saved $1,000 and invested in a snow blower. Last year, I hit the streets with the first snowstorm. I carefully chose Mrs. Gene’s doorbell,  since she was a friendly neighbor. Yet even she was not an immediate sale.

“Oh, well, usually Joe’s Snow Removal Company does it for me,” she told me.

“I do a quality job, can beat their price and will come any time that you need me.”

“Well, hun, Joe’s comes back and salts the steps so I don’t fall getting to my car in the morning.”

“I do that as well. Everyone on the block is going to be so jealous when they see how salty your steps are after I finish them.”

First sale made! The snow blower paid for itself in a few driveways and business started to boom. Eventually I had blocks of clients. Despite their elite equipment, my competition suffered.

Over time, my salesmanship grew beyond commerce and onto the lacrosse field. During my lacrosse team’s losing season two years ago, I was often the lone voice trying to sell my team on the belief that we could “bring home a ‘W.’” Perhaps it was those selling moments that inspired the team to elect me to be captain, as a junior, last year.

I still work at the bike shop and my business’s growth required me to hire two neighbors to help plow and attract new customers. Motivating them mirrors my roles on the lacrosse field, in the bike shop and, ultimately, my pathway as a natural leader with the initiative to work with people to get tasks done. Imagining what might comprise the open, unknown places on that path excites me as much as the rush of meeting those first customers in the bike shop.

Christopher Lassiter, a graduate of Millburn High School, is a freshman at James Madison University.

Small School Blues; Big School Hopes

by Jack Reiss

jackreiss

Prompt: Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve. You can type directly into the box, or you can paste text from another source. (250-650 words)

The addiction takes over at exactly 9:30 A.M. on business days. I hold my breath to see what phases the stock market. Could Pfizer skyrocket over 50 percent because of news for a groundbreaking cancer drug? Could McDonald’s dip 50 percent because of higher than expected trans fat in Big Macs? Or will it be a day like the one last March when Isoray, a cancer treatment stock I own, jumped more than 100 percent? The convergence of my interests in stocks, statistics, history and agriculture has influenced my decision to transfer to a school where I can strongly pursue these subjects, and also experience a broader, more developed and inspired social scene.

The stock market habit began a year ago, triggered by my love affair with my high school Elementary Statistics class and after my dad handed over control of my custodial portfolio. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s chump change. But now I view stocks as closely as I watch baseball – which is pretty close – or a plant I grow from seed to flower.

I have fully engaged my interests at Trinity. My home at Trinity is the investment club where I am in the midst of preparing for a presentation on risk in health care company stocks. I want to build on experiences like this at a place with more opportunities and a more diverse population of students with similar passions or other intellectual interests that I have yet to explore. At Trinity, my grades are good and I look forward to my classes. However, I seek a university with a larger number of students who want to work and expand intellectually.

A broader social environment with stronger extracurriculars drives my search for a compatible school.  At Trinity, I attempted to join a whiffle ball intramural team, but there were not enough students to sign up so the club was cancelled. This one example indicates some of the limitations of a school with 2000 students. My hope is for a larger university with a more intellectually ambitious student body and activities and organizations that reflect that population.

I seek transferring to a school that offers inspired ways to explore

my interests and discover new ones. For years, I found many ways to engage my passion for botany. While serving as an intern horticulturist at the Central Park Conservancy in high school, I began to consider horticulture in the context of investing and the future. I lean towards companies that are committed to promoting health initiatives centered on organic foods, nutrition, and sustainability. Now that I manage my small stock portfolio, I conduct research companies like Whitewave, a pioneer health food conglomerate; it was the first company I chose to invest in and fits my criteria by intersecting agricultural, health food, and finance interests; plus it pays dividends!

My interest in statistics has helped fuel my fascination with stocks and their associated statistical models, especially volatile stocks with their sporadic graphs and possible inferences from them. I desire studying the market in ways that are connected to my academic work, including researching models for looking at the stock market as a way of creating communities through the identification of companies with interests that unite shareholders beyond profit margins. As part of this goal, I am in the process of obtaining Bloomberg certification through use of the Bloomberg Terminal system, which will be an asset to investing and complement my academic research. The certification will also expose me to information beyond the stock market. It will be a tool for exploring other subjects like history and a barometer for exploring the world’s markets and their resulting implications. I am excited by the opportunity of taking this certification into a new academic environment. It is just one of many possibilities that inspire me to transfer to a larger school.

Jack Reiss, a 2014 graduate of The Browning School, is now sophomore at NYU.

The Invincible Decision

by Jordan Atkins

IMG_9186I was one of the invincibles in eighth grade. Family, friends, and fans called us the “B5”– five talented black athletes within a predominantly white community. With 31 wins and 0 losses, we reached the goal of a perfect season while dominating our opponents and inspiring excitement in our community. We could make history if we continued to play with the same level of intensity in high school. It would be the first time in our high school’s 65 years that African-Americans would comprise the entire starting lineup in any sport. Our future high school basketball careers and prospects for a state championship looked as bright as the infamous “Fab Five,” Michigan’s 1991 recruiting class. There was one problem: I knew that basketball at the next level would consume all my free time and prevent me from pursuing other interests.

Community and friends versus my own heart: At the end of freshman season, I had to choose between succumbing to the pressure of pleasing others and following my true interests. In looking back, I tapped into the courage I found when I began to negotiate the boundaries of stereotyping.  It started in sixth grade, with friends often saying: “Jordan, you’re the whitest black person I know,” referring to my proper style of speech.  These comments were hurtful, and although said jokingly, I felt the stereotyping and disrespect inherent in them. I was born in the same suburb as my friends and had experienced a strong sense of community. Yet, I realized the powerful stereotypes of race and athletes. In the beginning of eighth grade, I built up the courage to confront those making such comments, and the jokes stopped.

Months later, it hit me. If I continued basketball, I would have limited time to improve football and baseball skills, explore my interest in business outside of school, or even volunteer in mentoring programs. Working with younger kids was a passion and skill that started when I attended a small private elementary school. In third grade, I began work with preschoolers, spending half of my lunchtime reading stories to them. Eventually, I helped those in younger grades with schoolwork. I never had time to pursue this kind of volunteering once I began playing basketball at an intense level. So, before the basketball season started in my sophomore year, I made the decision to walk away from the sport.

Without the added demands of basketball, I began participating in business competitions held by the Business Professionals of America. I spent countless hours taking notes and studying fundamental accounting, banking, and finance principles. The determination to dominate at these business competitions felt similar to the tenacity with which I used to practice my shots before game day. But rather than looking for external encouragement from coaches, I became self-motivated. In my first year, I qualified for nationals.

I always loved football, and could now explore that interest. At first, I faced discouragement from future teammates, since I hadn’t played on the freshman team. But again, I stayed true to my interest and ended up starting on both offense and defense my sophomore year. I am now a team captain for the varsity team. In some ways, my role resembles my elementary school mentoring, helping younger football players maneuver the grueling demands of football and academics. I also advise them on other off-the-field issues such as taking ownership for behavior in and out of school.

Quite honestly, I do miss basketball, and think about the missed opportunity for fame and heroism. But, I do not regret my decision. When my school’s team made it to the State’s “final four” with only three of the B5 as starters, I often thought and was told, “That could’ve been me playing.” Yet every good decision comes with sacrifices.

Jordan Atkins, a freshman at the University of Michigan, is a graduate of Adlai E Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois.

From Football to Squash, Politics and Myself

by Ian Batts

By the time that I reached Ninth Grade, my ten fingers each had a story to tell. I had broken them all in different football injuries. They recovered stronger, and I always returned to the sport. Football had become my life starting in sixth grade. As a player and a fan (I loved watching my Redskins on Sundays) it informed my social world and identity. It was so much of my life that I became frightened when I no longer enjoyed playing on the team.

Freshman year: I ignored the impulse to quit football. At training camp in August, a revered senior player said to me: Nobody enjoys football, including me.” Surely somebody does. At least someone knew how I felt then, but for years of work, what had he gotten out of football? Soon afterwards, an injury–not the fingers but a herniated disc–forced me out for the rest of freshman year. I was slightly relieved.

As a sophomore, I was back on the field, but I realized why that senior kept playing a sport that he did not enjoy: his friends were his teammates, girls came to see him play, the school appreciated football, and freshmen aspired to be him. On the bus ride from an away game, I sat next to a rowdy friend who recounted the game’s highlights. He sensed my lack of excitement.

“Why aren’t you having fun?” he said with surprise. “You played well.”

“I just have had a long day.” Please let me be.

“Yeah, I hate away games,” he said.

I thought aloud, “Do you like practice? What do you like about the season?”

I shouldn’t have said that. Well, I might as well say what I really think now: “I think I should quit.”

He warned that I would lose friends and respect. Our definitions of respect are so far apart; I will always respect football players for character, but never for being popular. How can I respect those who play without a purpose beyond popularity? Is that not the opposite of character?

I quit. I won my independence, and a new world revealed itself to me. One day, a classmate asked me to play squash. I would have never had this opportunity before. Although my friends won’t understand, I ought to try it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game for its own sake; I had no external motivations. I signed up for lessons afterward. In my first squash lesson, the pro started off by teaching me that “you control the ball. The ball doesn’t control you.” This epitomized how I had changed my life. I did not fear my friends’ reactions to my debut in squash. Their arguments against anything that was not football, lacrosse, or soccer were weightless. Maybe it’s just me, but I wanted to try something new. For risking my social life, I found out that my closest friends, some of whom were most opposed to me playing squash, saw my happiness and were truly loyal. With a new passion and renewed trust in my friends, I began to see every day as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Letting go of football provided time for other interests like Model UN and other avenues to explore individuality. Most of my friends are devout Republicans. I followed my blue heart and became co-head of the Young Democrats this year.

Eventually, I saw a version of that old cliché: If you can’t beat him, join him, come to life. Seeing my happiness, some friends privately asked me if they could join the Squash Club. So I decided to start an official squash team at my school. I found the players, a place to play, and the coaches, but the school athletic director rejected the proposal, saying that squash would take students away from popular sports. He will never see a point in the proposal. I can’t change that, but I am so tired of people deciding what others ought to do. In a rare moment of insubordination, I suggested that students should be allowed to choose for themselves. He might have seen squash as a dead end or something obscure, but since that day I first tried squash, I realized that there are many ways to the same goal, football and squash being among them, and that each person might be fit for one or the other or something else altogether. In the end, the long process for me to define character, success, and fulfillment on my own terms produced the evolution of my individuality.

Ian Batts, a 2013 graduate of St Albans, will be a freshman at Harvard in the Fall, 2014, after a Gap Year.

Why Northwestern?

by Nicholas Jacobson

I grew up two blocks away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For me, the Met represents the mixture of sports and fine art, or even the beauty of brutality and culture. Throughout middle school, my friends and I gathered in the Met’s backyard to play a fun, yet competitive game of tackle football once or twice a week. The grass was green on “Met Field” when we first started playing in September. A couple of months into the Fall, the beautiful oasis became a vast wasteland of dust. Whenever I went on a class field trip to the Met, my mind struggled between admiring pieces of art and the upcoming afternoon of tossing the football around.

I don’t see a disconnect between valuing Matisse’s “Crockery on a Table” and, say, Drew Brees’ passes. I don’t think I would be alone in appreciating a good quarterback and a piece of art as per a comment of my tour guide on my first trip to Northwestern. He described Northwesterners as “the smartest normal kids in the country.” That comment secured my feeling that Wildcat Nation is the ideal place for me. Versatility is my norm, from playing guitar to football to combing New York City in search of the perfect burger. The tour guide’s remark perfectly describes the kind of peers and classmates with whom I want to share my college experience. In my view, normal and intelligent kids are not just high-achievers who are masters at balancing work and fun. These kids also possess versatility, and Met football is a microcosm of that balance.

I am also drawn to the flexibility of the quarter system at Northwestern. Taking four classes per quarter and twelve per year will allow me to take many classes outside of my major. My guide talked about his class on the history of hip-hop, which explored the politics of rap. I want to take a class like that, maybe a class about the progression of Greek architecture, or perhaps one on the psychology of bullying. I want to stretch myself and my academic interests throughout college. The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences offers an innovative and well-rounded liberal arts education, but I also want to take advantage of the prestigious Kellogg Certificate Program later in my college experience.

Specifically, I am largely interested in economics. When touring Northwestern, I quickly moved over to the tour-guide who mentioned he was an economics major. I requested that he talk about the economics major for a little during the tour, and he really talked about it for more than just “a little.” He raved about the outstanding quality of professors, mentioning a professor named Joseph Ferrie in particular. I looked up Dr. Ferrie and learned that he taught the history of economics. I read one of his papers that examined the increased mortality rates in Chicago entitled “Death and the City: Chicago’s Mortality Transition.” The research paper examined the issue from an economic perspective, while analyzing the effect of the role of government. This particular research is the exact kind of academic work I am looking forward to. My innate abilities lie in math while my interests lie in history; Ferrie’s economic analysis combines both.

I have already begun to integrate mathematical and historical analyses in my studies. Last year, I wrote a term paper for history about the introduction of Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball and the effect it had on professional sports, as well as society. Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers, wanted to integrate the professional baseball by finding a spectacular black athlete to prove that blacks could perform at, or even above, the level that whites performed at. Rickey wanted to sign the best possible player, but knew that the recent history had not been kind to African Americans in the United States. It was a necessity for the chosen player to be composed in order to deflect racial slurs and criticism from white fans and players. As Rickey explained it, he must have the emotional stability to “armor [himself] against the daggers of prejudice.” Branch Rickey used statistics to determine the best player, but also referenced history to choose a player with poise. The choice of Jackie Robinson to lead the integration movement in baseball perfectly illustrates the type of research I want to continue to do at Northwestern.

While living in Chicago last summer and interning at the Chicago Recording Company, I visited the campus numerous times and fell in love with the ivy-covered buildings, the beauty of the lake, and even the vibe I got from standing in the cafeteria. I cannot envision myself going to school anywhere else. However, beauty alone is but a small factor in my decision to apply early to Northwestern.

I have looked at all aspects of Wildcat life. I have studied the list of clubs and know that I will not have difficulty in finding clubs to join. In fact, the challenge will be choosing from the rich options, such as the Happiness Club and Mee-Ow Comedy Troupe. Then, there are the traditions, which also reflect the fun loving nature of the school. I yearn for the chance to paint my entire body purple and jingle my keys during kick off in preparation for the Wildcats whooping Iowa at Ryan Field. I want to study hard for finals and then go outside and scream as loud as I can, just because I can. I want to be a part of the Northwestern ritual of painting the rock and guarding it furiously despite the fact that it is ten degrees and snowing. I crave the opportunity to dance until my legs fall off to raise money for charity.

I validated my initial sense of the University when I visited the school and stayed overnight in the fall when classes were in session. From the moment I stepped out from the cab onto Sheridan Road, I knew my decision had been finalized. The school spirit was tangible as students were walking around in purple with “Wildcats” written on their clothes. Between watching hands turn into Wildcat claws during the game against Michigan, talking to economics majors about the economics department, eating at Lisa’s, or just hanging out in the dorms and ordering from Buffalo Wild Wings, I knew that Northwestern had “Nick Jacobson” written all over it. Northwestern has something I call the “intangible factor”; I felt in my gut that this place was for me. I have not visited another school in any part of the country where kids have expressed the same enthusiasm for their school. At Northwestern, I got the feeling that everyone just wants to be there and loves it. It’s not that they even want to be there. They would do anything to be there. For me, Northwestern will combine fun and learning, as Met football once did in my life. I know I will benefit from everything the school has to offer and thrive in the academic and social environment of the school. I can say with conviction that Northwestern is the place for me — a place where I am well suited to spend the next four years of my life.

Nicholas Jacobson is a Freshman at Northwestern University and a 2012 graduate of The Dalton School.

Class Clown to Class President

by Drew Crichlow

“Are you ready?”Drew Crichlow headshot

“Should I do it?”

Incessantly egging on my friends and warming up my audience, I ask again, “Ready …? Here we go!” As I squat, I position myself to execute my next escapade. Today’s task: exploding a juice box.

There was always something inexplicably attractive about receiving attention, so throughout my childhood, the sound of laughter was my muse. I had an appetite for approbation (clearly not from teachers, but from my peers), and nothing was more satisfying than earning the missing-tooth smiles of my immature friends.

Seated politely at their desks, my poor classmates were trying to enjoy lunch peacefully, but what is a meal without a show, I thought. And with that, I plopped onto my juice box. Unfortunately, my stunt failed; the juice simply poured out of the container without creating the mushroom cloud of beverage I had envisioned. Despite this disappointment, my friends reacted just as I had expected, jumping to evade the anticipated blast radius, screaming in disgust, and the odd few, giving me the drug I desired most: laughter. The high was incredible, but my ecstasy was short-lived. Searching for smiles, I turned to see a less-than-pleased teacher who, hearing the disruption, summoned me with a beckoning finger curl. After being reprimanded, my antics led to another level of attention I had not anticipated. She chronicled my behavior in an email to my parents. Needless to say, my juice box bomb awarded me an ill-flattering but well-fitting behavioral report reflecting the day’s escapades.

In middle school, I could no longer get away with such blatant misbehavior. Instead, I disrupted class with lackluster jokes, only provoking laughter because of their inappropriate timing. But, I was soon struck by the gravity of being the class clown: my reputation was outweighing my innocence, defining my experience as a student, and compromising my academic life, despite my intelligence. The repercussions of my behavior were no longer worth the reward of a few chuckles. This recognition defined my maturation and freed me from my self-imposed shackles; I would no longer be a slave to laughter. It was time for the next chapter in my life, one defined by academic focus and exemplary school citizenship. This chapter (entitled “Self-Improvement”), was lengthy, but by the next chapter (“New Beginnings”), I emerged as a redefined character, one whose hunger for attention and laughter evolved into a thirst for knowledge and service. The more I focused on academics, the more I enjoyed learning; the more my peers and teachers believed in me, the more I wanted to give them a reason to keep their faith.

Ironically, being a class clown may be one of best things that ever happened to me. It shaped me into the person I have become, and helped me to develop my new muse: leadership. Leadership supported my maturation, as I began to realize I could positively influence my peers. My classroom antics gave me confidence and a voice to embrace public speaking – even though at the time, it was in a negative light. Being the class clown gave me the foundation I needed to be elected class president three consecutive years, and ultimately, president of the student body. Now, I am confident enough to represent the student body as its spokesperson to school administrators and make recommendations to improve the experiences of all students at school.

The transformation from class clown to class president was not easy, but revealed my full potential: I learned that actions speak louder than words, and new actions speak louder than old ones. In truth, I still appreciate laughter. However, I now recognize there is a time and place for everything, because integrity and citizenship take precedence over laughter. So while I am more mature, I will remember my class clown episodes as a souvenir – and as a roadmap for the rest of my life.

Drew Crichlow will be a freshman at Yale in the fall and just graduated from Montclair Kimberley Academy.

Losing a Friend and Learning

by Chloe Mondesir

She was more than a best friend. As an only child, she was the sibling I never had. I lost her on my third day of high school. I wasn’t ready for her death but at 99 she moved on anyway. I found myself alone and against the world in the foreign place called high school. But in the years since, I reminisce on the unique influence of my great grandmother’s presence in my life then and even now. Her death devastated me but the experience of pulling myself up from my grief prepares me for my future more than anything else.

Her name is Mildred and I can still see her in my present. Her smile, slowly opening up leading the way to the rest of her golden face; her plump, petite body relied on her wooden cane but her impact on our family for generations was larger than life. I would walk into a room: “Chloe darling,” she’d say. No one ever made me feel so special just by saying my name.

We played every game together: dolls, and dominoes. We went many places together, from grandma’s backyard to Atlantic City. Today most of my high school friends see me as an older, wiser soul. I need not wonder why. It grows out of the experience of having a close companion, or really a girlfriend, so many years and three generations apart from me. Mildred’s influence touches the lives of so many people I interact with today. My friend, Brittany, came to me last year more stressed than ever. Her father died as she was juggling junior year academic pressure with comforting her mom who, after the death of her husband, didn’t want to be left in the house alone. “Brittany darling, we’ll work it out.” The Mildred in me spoke loudly as I helped Brittany face her own grief while brainstorming hobbies and activities that would help her mother get beyond the pain.

Yet I was trying to grow beyond my own pain without Mildred. I felt like I was starting life over. In my sophomore year, I was still numb. Where was my passion? I was a dancer since three, yet I was not moving in the same way anymore. Always on honor roll since elementary school, I suddenly found myself at rock bottom upon receiving a letter for summer school registration to retake trigonometry. Clearly things decayed to their worst. “Chloe darling,” I thought to myself. I refocused my life and decided to join the school’s bereavement group and I became a new person. If summer school was an opportunity to get back on track with my work, I wanted to give myself the opportunity to address my grieving. I didn’t want to hit rock bottom again. I know the roots of a great part of this wisdom flows from my best friend.

In the beginning of my junior year, I sat in a room full of strangers. “So everybody go around the room and introduce yourself and share who you’ve lost.” I felt like everyone stared at me. Again, even amongst a group of people in similar circumstances I felt different and alone. I uttered something. I can’t remember those nervous words to this day. I just wanted to get through the moment.

The first few sessions were slow. By mid year, I was comfortable and the question became “So how do you feel about your loss now?” Finally after some time, something seemed to change for me. “I feel like this has helped me. I no longer feel as burdened being able to just talk about her as before. I feel better about the loss now.” I could see everyone was taken aback, as was I. In that moment, I suddenly saw the value of time and therapy. I knew then that the entire time I struggled to be comfortable in this group of strangers was necessary for me to reach this fluid stage in my life. I found my future, ambition, and passion in that room. I want to be a psychologist.

Shortly after the confidence boost set in, I found myself dancing again, expressing emotions that were sometimes just unexplainable. I tried out for the dance team. However, this dance team wasn’t in my comfort zone. I grew up with powerful art forms like ethnic dance. Now I needed to master the refined technique of Ballet in weeks. It was overwhelming but I quickly realized the fight inside of me for so long. I would be the only push I would need to get through the audition. First in my beginning stance, and suddenly in my last, I knew I had done what I needed to make the team. Sure enough I found my name in the last spot of the new dance team’s roster. This was the finish line of all my experiences thus far, from loss to struggle, and from struggle to success.

Every source of pain and resentment that I once felt, I learned to fuel for my growth indefinitely. I understand the importance of sharing with people, being honest with myself, and the significance of commitment in everything I do. I am better, stronger, more able and willing to grow. Now here I am, ready to share it all with you.

Chloe Mondesir began her freshman year at Spelman College in September. She is a 2012 graduate of St Francis Preparatory School in Queens.