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Signs to Good Words

by Tess Jacobson  

My mother, father, andTess Jacobson brother vanished. What happens now? I lack the words to express my sorrow, my future and…  

Mid-sentence, I struggled to convey this agony. My imagination was congested. I tried to force myself into the mind of my protagonist, but couldn’t find the words. So I dropped my pencil and unfinished story. I turned to sign language. If I couldn’t write or speak the suffering, I could sign it and capture the words. With thought as the conductor, my hands obediently brought the scenario to life, forcing me to lace my feet into the shoes of the character and bring his feelings to life in the way I had imagined: authentic, yet silent. “The growing lump of panic in Collin’s throat suddenly choked him before plummeting to the pit of his stomach where it filled him with overwhelming desolation and absorbed all other traces of sentiment.” Sign gave me these words.

American Sign Language started with a casual comment from an eighth grade teacher. Visual learners tend to acquire skills in learning sign language. As a visual learner, I decided to give it a try. The more I engaged in this culture of people who, unlike me, are deaf, I couldn’t let go. So, I searched to find a way to learn this language on my own.

Sign complements another love of mine—writing. I didn’t begin writing because I was a naturally good wordsmith, but because I needed it. My imagination lusts for boundlessness and I credit my seventh grade English teacher for facilitating this discovery. She gave the class a five-minute required daily writing period with one condition: no one but the writer would see his or her scribblings.

At first, I wasn’t exactly producing masterpieces of originality. I scrawled on the pages not knowing what to write or, if I was feeling extra imaginative, I would describe the classroom. However, regardless of the topic, there was something liberating about taking part in an activity without limits or direct instructions to follow. As soon as I discovered my affinity for this independent, unrestricted expression, my imagination was released from its shackles and I produced work that compelled me to break the class rule and show my work to others.

Today I love to write—poems, essays, stories, lab reports, term papers. My fire for this art form is all inclusive. From analyzing Hollywood’s portrayal of America during the Great Depression to describing an original biology experiment on the psychological impact of color and light, I crave opportunities to speak my mind—soundlessly and tangibly. I’m enticed by most anything that makes me a better writer, which is one reason I’m drawn to sign language. Without the two, I would have been limited without ever knowing.

The words to describe the unfathomable emotional situation in my short story seemed unattainable because I had never experienced the circumstances. Sign guided me to go below the exterior of explaining “how sad” something could be and helped me extract the visceral aspect of grief, allowing me to connect with the character, and making him a part of reality—not just an imaginary sketch. Sign forced me to reach the core of what my character could have felt, not just the mere essence, giving the words the aesthetic animation that speech cannot provide. The captivating gestures embedded in sign language are almost as riveting as the feeling that comes with giving vocabulary a physically moving existence.

After these two interests integrated into my world, I realized how they capture my psyche. Sign springs a glimpse of another culture into my life, teaching me to constantly imagine and view the world from different angles. Writing empowers me to channel those interpretations into my voice as a writer. I’m not sure if I have a way with words, but I have my own way with words.

Tess Jacobson, who became a graduate of  The Trevor Day School today, will be a freshman at Tufts University in the fall.

Tufts Supplements

by Tess Jacobson

Tess Jacobson

Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short: “Why Tufts?” (50–100 words)

        Is it a crush? No, it’s love. The Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development sparks the attraction, growing with notions of combining interests to create studies that are exclusively mine at the experimental college. Yet there is a “je ne sais quoi” crowning my infatuation. Perhaps it’s the sight of Jumbos devoted to academics by day, then transformed into a cohesive collective of burlesque or Kingsway African dancers by night. Maybe it’s faculty connections extending to applaud such eccentric performances. I can’t pinpoint one affection luring me in. My unbreakable tether: I only have eyes for Tufts.

There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – and how it influenced the person you are today. (200–250 words)

        Every night, my brother and I would wait hungrily at the table, antsy to peel the tin foil off of the dinner and start serving the home-cooked meal. We never did, though. We knew better than to let our impatience overthrow the value of our nightly family tradition: the family starts and ends dinner together.

        As a kid, I took this ritual for granted. I thought that dining on home-cooked dinners throughout the week with the whole family was part of everyday normalcy. To my surprise, I learned that this was not the case. More often than not, life’s many other obligations prevent families from spending the amount of time together they would like during the week and, as a result, they depend on other sources of quality time. I may not have recognized my fortune during childhood, but this family custom that was as routine to me as waking up everyday has subconsciously impacted what I value: relationships, contact and communication.

        In retrospect, this deceptively customary act of love that earlier generations passed on to my parents and that is now shared with me is what has cultivated my appreciation for the way my family raised me, and has had an influence on who I am. Along with this nightly tradition, I’ve inherited the capacity to incorporate sentiment into various aspects of my life and treasure the small things that complete it.

Now we’d like to know a little bit more about you.  Please respond to one of the following six questions (200-250 words):

A)   From Michelangelo to Mother Teresa, from Jackie Robinson to Elizabeth Bennett, the human narrative is populated by a cast of fascinating characters, real and imagined.  Share your favorite and explain why that person or character inspires you.

     My muscles froze and tension wiped the choreography from my mind. The cue to enter stage left was a minute away. I shrank at the thought of having over a hundred pairs of eyes on me. Overwhelming apprehension disarmed me; I could not go out there. It was thoughts of Philippe Petit that prodded me. Walking on a wire in front of New York City, 1,350 feet above an audience of thousands, without pause. Whether at the top of the World Trade Center or down on the ground, charming his audience with illusions, Petit’s eccentric charisma never fades. His peculiarity inspires me to be original and his plucky fearlessness impels me to disregard my trepidation. Assertiveness and poise restored, I stepped out from behind the wing.

        From the moment he read about the Twin Towers, Petit’s ambition became relentless; fear of failure was not a factor in his vision. My aspirations don’t fall in line with walking on wires, but he remains my luminary. His striking audacity motivates me to take risks. Petit’s tenacious grip on his own objectives, each one unwilling to let others stand in his way, reminds me to keep an unshakeable hold on my aims. He’s deceptively serious, looking upon his commitments with intensity, while emanating a contagious playfulness that reminds me to make time for amusement. While against my nature, I have internalized Petit’s intrepidity and resolution.

Tess Jacobson was a 2015 graduate of the Trevor Day School in New York City. She recently began her freshman year at Tufts.

Signs to Good Words

Signs to Good Words

by Tess Jacobson  

My mother, father, andTess Jacobson brother vanished. What happens now? I lack the words to express my sorrow, my future and…  

Mid-sentence, I struggled to convey this agony. My imagination was congested. I tried to force myself into the mind of my protagonist, but couldn’t find the words. So I dropped my pencil and unfinished story. I turned to sign language. If I couldn’t write or speak the suffering, I could sign it and capture the words. With thought as the conductor, my hands obediently brought the scenario to life, forcing me to lace my feet into the shoes of the character and bring his feelings to life in the way I had imagined: authentic, yet silent. “The growing lump of panic in Collin’s throat suddenly choked him before plummeting to the pit of his stomach where it filled him with overwhelming desolation and absorbed all other traces of sentiment.” Sign gave me these words.

American Sign Language started with a casual comment from an eighth grade teacher. Visual learners tend to acquire skills in learning sign language. As a visual learner, I decided to give it a try. The more I engaged in this culture of people who, unlike me, are deaf, I couldn’t let go. So, I searched to find a way to learn this language on my own.

Sign complements another love of mine—writing. I didn’t begin writing because I was a naturally good wordsmith, but because I needed it. My imagination lusts for boundlessness and I credit my seventh grade English teacher for facilitating this discovery. She gave the class a five-minute required daily writing period with one condition: no one but the writer would see his or her scribblings.

At first, I wasn’t exactly producing masterpieces of originality. I scrawled on the pages not knowing what to write or, if I was feeling extra imaginative, I would describe the classroom. However, regardless of the topic, there was something liberating about taking part in an activity without limits or direct instructions to follow. As soon as I discovered my affinity for this independent, unrestricted expression, my imagination was released from its shackles and I produced work that compelled me to break the class rule and show my work to others.

Today I love to write—poems, essays, stories, lab reports, term papers. My fire for this art form is all inclusive. From analyzing Hollywood’s portrayal of America during the Great Depression to describing an original biology experiment on the psychological impact of color and light, I crave opportunities to speak my mind—soundlessly and tangibly. I’m enticed by most anything that makes me a better writer, which is one reason I’m drawn to sign language. Without the two, I would have been limited without ever knowing.

The words to describe the unfathomable emotional situation in my short story seemed unattainable because I had never experienced the circumstances. Sign guided me to go below the exterior of explaining “how sad” something could be and helped me extract the visceral aspect of grief, allowing me to connect with the character, and making him a part of reality—not just an imaginary sketch. Sign forced me to reach the core of what my character could have felt, not just the mere essence, giving the words the aesthetic animation that speech cannot provide. The captivating gestures embedded in sign language are almost as riveting as the feeling that comes with giving vocabulary a physically moving existence.

After these two interests integrated into my world, I realized how they capture my psyche. Sign springs a glimpse of another culture into my life, teaching me to constantly imagine and view the world from different angles. Writing empowers me to channel those interpretations into my voice as a writer. I’m not sure if I have a way with words, but I have my own way with words.

Tess Jacobson, who became a graduate of  The Trevor Day School today, will be a freshman at Tufts University in the fall.

The Football Way

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.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

It’s Not Easy Being Green

2014-05-09-32183_10151393788600415_1417407436_n1By Chris Drakeford

“It’s not easy being green,” In today’s world, green is everywhere from supermarkets to car showrooms. But to be honest, I had not given much thought to green until I was introduced to Ayr Muir and the Clover Food Truck, a green business on MIT’s campus. Through an internship at MIT’s Community Innovator’s Lab, a research center associated with the department of Urban Studies and planning, I created a short documentary about Clover.

Ayr, an MIT graduate, gave up a job on Wall Street to create his dream business, the Clover Food Truck. He found innovative ways to deal with the many obstacles that green businesses face, such as limited investment funds for green technologies, limited customer interest in green products, and customer unwillingness to pay a premium for the products. Clover did not heavily promote the fact that it was green, but instead concentrated on building a base of regular customers by making great food. While many people might shy away from a menu stacked with vegan sandwiches, the truth is that the food was simply delicious. In fact, several customers we interviewed were not even aware of how green Clover was. Clover’s prices were comparable to, if not better, than those of other local eateries. Ayr was able to maintain lower prices by purchasing his organic food from local suppliers, avoiding the cost of shipping food from further away.

Every aspect of Clover’s operation was designed with sustainability in mind. The truck itself was built with many recycled materials, such as the counter made from a local red oak that fell during a storm. It was equipped with energy-efficient appliances, and the staff used less than 20 gallons of water a day in food preparation. In addition, the truck was fueled partially by biodiesel (french-fry oil).

As a person who had little prior knowledge about sustainability, I learned a great deal from Ayr and the Clover truck. I learned that sustainability has many faces, whether it is wind power and other alternate forms of energy, or the little green things we can do each day. I now find that I am much more conscious about habits like recycling, switching to fluorescent lights and turning them off when not in use, and using less water. I spent very little time thinking about such things before my experience with Clover.

The daily lunchtime rush to the truck is evidence that Ayr has overcome the challenge of successfully establishing a green business. It is his philosophy that “businesses have a greater impact on society than anything.” Businesses such as the Clover Truck can pave the way to a greener future.

Chris Drakeford is a graduate of Yorktown High School and is currently a senior at Tufts University

Values in Indecision Over the N-Word

By Chris Drakeford

“If it ends with an ‘a’ it’s ‘a’-ok” explained Todd, after seeing my face cringe when he referred to his white friend as  “my nigga.” As 50 Cent, Lil Wayne and Jay-Z use this word liberally in their music; teenagers have adopted the word as a synonym for good friends regardless of race. For younger generations, the shock factor associated with the N-word has faded. My parents would be appalled at the frequency of the word at my high school—even if it lacks an “er” ending. My own decreasing sensitivity is not disrespectful to my heritage but rather an uneasy adaptation to changing times.

I was the lone teenager at a table of black Baby Boomers last summer while out to dinner with family friends. My dad sparked a debate about whether racism was decreasing in younger generations. This question quickly produced a unanimous “no” amongst everyone at the table, with one exception – me. While finishing off my chicken, ribs, and macaroni, my mind drifted, blocking out the chorus of stories of “undeserved speeding tickets,” “overaggressive police actions,” and “suspected racial profiling.” I reflected on my experience in Yorktown, growing up as a black male in a town where I never felt that I was treated unfairly, differently, or unequally. Perhaps I have been lucky or maybe racism is present but I don’t see it because it lies outside the boundaries of my perspective. As I tuned back into the dinner debate, I defended my generation as less racist.

While the adults clearly had more experience on the race issue and experience is often seen as an asset when it comes to solving problems, it can also limit new thinking and ideas.  I have never been very passionate about race but my views can be an asset as it frees me from seeing the same predictable pessimism of race which seems so unfitting to the moment of living with the nation’s first black president.

I sit at a peculiar place at the intersection of race and class. I am a product of a proud black family that represents the diversity of black culture. My Dad, the son of a blue-collar lumberyard worker, was the first to attend college in his family. My Mom, the daughter of a doctor, is the fourth generation to attend college. Most of my friends are white and middle class; this has given me a unique window into both black and white worlds. I understand the older generation’s disapproval of the “n word”, but I also understand my friends’ confusion when I tell them the word is “off limits” while it slips so easily off the tongues of black rappers and comedians. “Why can’t we use it if they’re using it?” they ask me. I often remain silent because, the truth is, I don’t have an answer. I never use the word, and expect the same from my friends.

The only time I feel like a stranger in either of my two worlds is when the subject of race arises. I usually see both sides of the race debate, and regardless of the viewpoint I encounter, I often find myself taking the opposing side. I remember a peer arguing with me that racism is an insignificant factor in our society that is exaggerated for the benefit of certain groups. My first reaction was anger: How could anybody think such ignorant and misguided thoughts?  Ironically, I found myself arguing with my peer using some of the same ammunition the Baby Boomers used at dinner that night.  But I couldn’t dismiss my classmate as racist. This kid had simply experienced his whole life as a white middle class male, in a town with few minorities. What opportunity would he have had to look for or see racism?  None. How could I expect him to see something that lies outside the borders of his vision, something that is essentially invisible to him? How could I expect the Baby Boomers to see race based on anything beyond their experience growing up in a world still plagued by remnants of the racism that the Civil Rights movement sought to eradicate?

To me, racism is a complex, ever-shifting entity that moves about class, generation, and community without any consistency. It may never disappear and individual experience, a much larger force beyond generation, will always shape perspectives on it. While my thoughts around racism are still forming, my particular experience provides me with insight into both black and white worlds. Some might see my thinking as indecisive, but I believe there is a need for leaders who can see multiple sides of an issue and can make informed and empathetic decisions about seemingly unsolvable conflicts, such as those between Henry Louis Gates and a white police officer or even between Arabs and Israelis and blacks and whites. This leadership, which is demonstrated by individuals such as Barack Obama, is becoming more important in solving the issues of our increasingly complex and globalized world.

Chris Drakeford will be a senior at Tufts University in the fall. He is a 2010 graduate of Yorktown Heights High School in Yorktown Heights, New York.

Supplements: Why Tufts? Let Your Life Speak.

What aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short: “Why Tufts?” 50-100 words

by Ravi Popat

1 teaspoon of History

¾ ounce of Language

A pinch of Culture

A full cup of Economics

1 drop of Political Science

This is the tentative recipe for my perfect dish but you need a master chef to make your taste buds dance. The intellectual dialogue and strong IR program at Tufts makes it the ideal place to hone my “cooking” skills and become a master chef.

_____________________________________________________________

by Chris Drakeford

My intellectual curiosity is my child and Tufts is the ideal neighborhood to raise him. My child wonders about the world beyond his backyard and leading travel abroad and international relations programs will strengthen his natural ability to find answers to conflicts. He dreams of global citizenship and the pursuit of diplomacy or international business.

__________________________________________________________

There is a Quaker saying: ”Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised–your family, home, neighborhood, or community–and how it influenced the person you are today. 

by Ravi Popat

England’s famous rainfall never failed to lull me to sleep as I travelled south to visit my grandparents every weekend. I complained about missing sleepovers as we made the journey from our affluent neighborhood near Bedford to my grandparent’s house in the projects of North London. In splitting my childhood between two very different neighborhoods, I was exposed to two completely different lifestyles. As I spent my weekdays with the Bedford boys and my weekends with the Shakespeare Drive crew, I would find myself shifting between a London “bruv” and a Bedfordian. This amoebic nature allowed me to move freely between groups if I wanted.  And even though I have left “Jolly old,” I find my metamorphic ability useful on stage, switching from the blood lusting Tybalt to the joker known as the Clown.

Back in the streets of London we played street football, emulating our heroes, whilst keeping lookout for incoming traffic; in the halls of Bedford, we vociferously debated which player was better and whose hero was more heroic. In Bedford, I sharpened my debating skills that have proved to be powerful weapons in my Model UN conferences. In London, I learned how to beat my defender, a quick drop of the shoulder, a feint, leaving the opposition skinned. The moves that I learned back on Shakespeare Drive have come back to aid me today. Ask any of my opponents on the soccer field.

Looking back on my days in England, I realize what molded me as a person. I owe something to both the brown brick house on Shakespeare Drive and the Harry Potter-esque halls of the 500-year-old Bedford School.

_____________________________________________________________

by Chris Drakeford

Like all children, I began as an unshaped piece of clay. My hometown, Yorktown Heights, New York, has performed the task of a sculptor shaping me into the person I am today. My parents are the sculptor’s right and left thumbs. My Dad, an IBM retiree, soaks up books like a sponge. He has taught me the skills I will need as an adult, anything from “how to fix the sink” to “how the stock market works.” My Mom, an IBM executive, is a testament to the fact that hard work harbors success. Although I only see her for an hour or two on weeknights, watching her work so tirelessly has shaped my strong work ethic. Growing up without siblings has fostered creativity and resourcefulness; as an only child my imagination was often my only companion. My Grandmother, a psychologist, has as much youth and energy as my 17 year old friends. Like her, I look to better understand others through their actions and behaviors. Relationships with a diverse assortment of friends have also shaped important qualities such as debate skills gained from witty arguments with my intellectual honors classmates, or the sense of community gained from my quirky close-knit family of lacrosse teammates.

 

Ravi Popat began his freshman year at Tufts in September. He is a 2012 graduate of The Trinity School in New York.    

Chris Drakeford is a junior at Tufts majoring in International Relations. He was the first student ever to enroll in Write for the Future. He is a 2010 graduate of Yorktown Heights High School in Yorktown Heights, New York. He now works part-time for Write for the Future developing social media outreach.


Multiple Homelands or None at All?

by Ravi Popat

I have been homeless for almost 18 years. Or maybe, I should call it “homeland-less.” I am a citizen of France, was born in England, am living in the USA, and am of Indian origin. And so my opportunity or dilemma starts with my lack of a definitive home country.

I have the opportunity to make my own culture, picking and rejecting elements from the different places of my upbringing. For example, I am an Indian as I declare that my parents will never see the inside of a nursing home. I am English and American, knowing I will never exist in a caste.

I face a dilemma when I allow other forces to dictate the choices for me. I realized this when I met “John.” I was 12 years old working at my uncle’s convenience store in England. The shop was calm as usual on this Tuesday morning, with a steady trickle of men from the nearby factory coming for newspapers and cigarettes.

“Good morning John, can I get a pack of Marlboro’s as well?” asked one of his regular customers.

I looked around the shop, searching for “John.” My name is Ravi and I know my Uncle as Ramesh. Who was John? My uncle responded by happily handing his customer the pack of cigarettes. I realized that John was the name that regulars used for my uncle. I was bewildered, yet I still accepted my uncle’s Anglicized name. As I grew older, I came across more “Johns.”

John was not just a name; it was my uncle’s effort to keep his English customers comfortable with him. My first personal “John” moment was in a hostile place: the school bus on the way to Bedford. On the bus we often laughed at the latest episodes of The Simpsons. One conversation veered towards Apu, the show’s Indian shopkeeper. His arranged marriage–once a cultural staple of the Indian community–attracted my friends’ laughter. “Are you going to have an arranged marriage Ravi?” I had never really thought about the question of marriage before, but understood that saying “yes” would be totally un-John. “No way,” I replied. I was keeping my western peers comfortable.

At 13, I moved to New York. The city’s cultural diversity makes it an ideal place to be a cultural chooser. In New York, I learned to choose or reject in a way that strengthens my individuality and outgrew that “John” model, which forces one to choose names to please others and reject customs merely to fit in with peers. Rather, I choose and reject based on my view of the world. As a global cultural chooser, I am forced to think deeply about values and morality in a fresh way. I do not automatically embrace or reject something because it is Indian, American or English. I often deeply consider if something feels compatible to my taste. In doing so, I have grown to control many of the cultural influences of my identity.

My embrace of my religion challenged the “John” template. It started with a question in my English class junior year: “Do you think people look down upon you if you’re religious at Trinity?” My classmates hands flew up to answer “yes.” Why? The answers were antithetical to my sense of religion as a force of morality in my life. “Most kids at Trinity think that being religious doesn’t make logical sense, and so those who are religious are kind of seen as illogical.” For the most part, all the kids in the class felt this way. I felt cornered because I was amongst the minority; I did not agree at all. I had chosen Hinduism as my religion; my parents had left the decision up to me. To me, it seemed logical to choose this part of my family’s Indian culture, because I related to many of the principles. How could my peers think that intelligence and religion were incompatible when I myself underwent such a logical process of choosing my faith?

A year later, I stood on stage in front of my whole school in a special assembly presented by the South Asian Society about Diwali and Hinduism. The topic of my speech? The role faith and doubt play in religion. I spoke about faith in front of an audience who were dismissive of its value because I am not “John.” I no longer need to please my “customers,” although I am interested in hearing their ideas as well as mine. I try to pick the best aspects of all the cultures at my disposal, in order to create my own “homeland.”

Ravi Popat is a freshman at Tufts University and a graduate of the Trinity School in New York.