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Testimonials

  • “The workshop helped me to feel comfortable writing about myself and to work through my ideas to see what would work. It proved to be a crucial way for me to figure out what was most important to me and how to express that to the colleges I was applying to in the most articulate way. I highly recommend it as learning experience.”
  • Sophia Toles
  • Martha’s Vineyard Workshop Attendee
  • Class of 2012, Friends Academy
  • Class of 2016, Princeton University
  • “David Dent does a great job of helping students come up with revealing topics of their very own to consider for their college essays. He takes the time that is needed to transport your child beyond the routine parameters of his/her thinking to get there.”
  • Lisa Boldt, Mother
  • Alden Boldt
  • Class of 2014, Berkshire School
  • Class of 2018, Union College
  • “When Cameron came to Write for the Future, he was at the bottom of his class in writing and literature. In about 26 sessions, he has gone from a bottom to an A. It is so exhilarating to see this work-in-action. David and Write for the Future have proven that what they say, they do. Write for the Future is a testament to itself. … Now my son can analyze things, he can write things; there are not words to express the things he has done since he has been working with Write for the Future...I would recommend Write for the Future offers to anyone. You are investing in your child’s future,… and you will see the outcome of the product. Write for the Future has done wonders for my son. On Sundays, he always looks forward to his session…. I think it’s amazing.”
  • Lynn King,
  • Mother of Cameron King,
  • Class of 2016, Elisabeth Irwin High School

Essay of the Week: Hiking Through Hurricanes, Hornet’s Nests and Student Government

Essay of the Week: Hiking Through Hurricanes, Hornet’s Nests and Student Government

By Hallie Ryan

Through layers of fog, I vaguely see the solid white line and my bike’s front wheel turning. I taste sweat mixed with rain. With shaking hands, I keep to the right of the white line, avoiding the treacherous shoulder. Our group of 11 girls embarked on this 1000-mile journey four days ago, but on day two Hurricane Arthur unleashed its wrath on us. I am in the summer of my life; yet the joy and excitement I feel reminds me of spring days standing before an audience.

They have been my constants for many years: the spring campaign speeches trying to convince peers to elect me to serve them in student government positions and the summers of hiking, biking and camping with the the American Youth Foundation (AYF). Both have worked in concert to shape me and define my sense of community, I was also able to learn more about compound bows from the AYF.

I’ll never forget my first speech. My heart raced as I walked onto the middle school auditorium stage to address the entire student body for the first time. I lost my place a few times and occasionally forgot to lift my eyes from the paper. Despite some stutters, my friends gave me a thumbs up. I exited the stage with a little skip. I won the election– destined to continue this passion.

Each spring, I became less nervous, and spoke with more confidence. Each summer, I became less afraid of spiders, and encountered new tests to my sense of loyalty, leadership and community. Sometimes I was terrified. The wind hissed while the water splattered onto the terrain on our journey biking through Nova Scotia. Erica, my friend from the first summer, turned a corner and her wheel stumbled on the gravel. Suddenly she was on the concrete underneath her bike. I slid to a stop, hopped off my bike, grabbed the first aid kit and rushed to her side. “Are you ok?” Blood poured from her knees. I reassured her and myself that we would survive this bump in the road. Minutes later, we were pedaling again.

 Beyond rugged bike rides, there were quiet moments. The solitude of nature was soul-shaping, inspiring me to reflect on the impact I’ve had on my communities. Leadership and service require me to move through life mindful of being my best so when it is challenged, I can empower myself to work harder and stay positive.

Two years later, my efforts to live by the AYF motto, “My own self; At my very best; All the time,” guided me when I delivered my final campaign speech in the spring of my junior year. I had served as class vice president for three years and now sought to be president.

The election results came two days later. My name was not on the list. I was devastated.

In losing, I rediscovered the value of AYF. As I once survived walking through a hornet’s nest, I would move beyond this defeat. The loss confirmed that my commitment to community was the force that drove me–not the election or a title. When I saw James, the winner, I pushed disappointments aside and hugged him; a reflection of the values highlighted in The Odyssey–the 125-mile hike of endurance in AYF’s finale last summer. In the last two miles of our hike, another storm pounded us. By the time we reached the camp ground, the chorus began from some friends. “I can’t wait to go home,” and all its variations echoed. As we started to set up the tents, I drummed a rhythm with the tent stakes, and my friends joined in. Eventually, we discovered there was nothing to do but laugh and dance to the beats we created. Throughout the journey there were special moments like this that connected us all and made us an even closer community. I enjoyed every step up with my fellow hikers. At Katahdin’s peak, I reveled in hugging my peers.

 

Hallie Ryan, a graduate of Monclair Kimberlee Academy, will be a freshman at Colgate University in the fall.

Essay of the Week: A Home Beyond Labels

Essay of the Week: A Home Beyond Labels

By Danielle Black

“You’re a token black friend too.”

My chuckle cannot kill the awkwardness after Chris shocks me with that comment. Who expects to hear something like that at a multicultural forum for private school students? His remark is a small recognition of something that makes us ostensibly similar –both of us black students at predominantly white independent schools; both of us having friends of different races. Yet his words irk me. Or more specifically, the word “token” bothers me long after the occurrence at that snack bar.

Labels have never been my friend; neither have people who conform to them. Enter my room. I am bobbing my head to the beats of “HiiiPower”- a Kendrick Lamar song with lyrics that expose truths more provocative than the repetitive lines of Top 40 hits. In this song Lamar narrates his experiences  as a black male growing up in Compton during the 1990s, the pinnacle of modern hip-hop culture. The three “i”s in the song title stand for heart, honor, and respect. I was so eager to share my new discovery that my fingers were flying across my phone screen, “Guys, Kendrick Lamar’s latest album is amazing.” No responses? Maybe everyone was just busy. The next day my friends, all white, ostracized me for being “fake” for supporting something that was not commonplace for our social group.

It was more than a ‘Mean Girl’ experience. In hindsight, the group’s dismissal was a moment of personal liberation. If I had agreed with my friends about Lamar, I would have succumbed to Chris’ assumption of the “token black friend.” Admittedly, I was confined by the fear that my white friends would pigeonhole me through racial stereotypes if I embraced a lifestyle, yet unfamiliar to us, so akin to my African-American culture. Perhaps Lamar was my breaking point.

I have been a girl of many neighborhoods which I’ve grown to see mirror my versatility. I lived in downtown New York until my parents divorced in eighth grade when I moved to the Upper East Side with my Mom, further entrenched in a predominantly white neighborhood close to my school. The move catalyzed my hunger to explore beyond my zip code. Then last year, Dad cheered “Strivers Row!” referring to his new neighborhood of homes once owned by famous names of the Harlem Renaissance. Living in Harlem crystallized my ability to see that I could be valued without being one textbook definition of race and place.

During my first summer as a Harlemite, I walked down the steps of the Brownstone eager to explore my weekend neighborhood. I scanned the people outside on lawn chairs, turned the corner onto 145th street, and stumbled upon a table of CDs for sale. I recognized artists my parents played when I was younger like Earth, Wind & Fire, The Temptations, Fugees, and Prince, all artists whose lyrics I could sing on command.

The air grew hot and sticky with the bustle of people flowing down the sidewalk. A vestige of a past time came to mind: a bumbling crowd entering and exiting my Upper East Side train stop. As the sun started to set into a Harlem night, the faces around me lit up in return. There was something spellbinding about this moment, variables that were lacking in my other neighborhoods, yet elements so familiar. People of all races and cultures bringing life to Harlem. An organic similarity pulled me into the sea of people, inciting a connection I had never recognized.

Like Harlem, I am an amalgam of experiences and cannot be reduced to a label. I did not expect to walk into such a recognition when I left home that day.  Similar to the fluidity of my homes, I orbit beyond the limited contours of labels. I belong in each place but neither define me — street numbers nor music tastes — and I am certainly not a token.

 

Danielle Black, a graduate of The Dalton School, will be a freshman at Dartmouth in the fall.

From the Classroom to the Courtroom, WFTF Alum Pursues Justice with Journalism

From the Classroom to the Courtroom, WFTF Alum Pursues Justice with Journalism

By John O’Donoghue and Bernard Mokam


HANNAHKLIOT123-240x300.pnglllShe shadowed the Wiccan witches of Rogers Park,  joined television reporters in San Antonio courtrooms, translated Eastern medicine to a Western audience, studied abroad in “the land down under,” conquered the Windy City, and found her passion for criminal justice while investigating the case of a
Florida man who may have spent the last four decades on death row for a murder he did not commit. This is the trajectory of Write for the Future and soon-to-be Northwestern Medill School of Journalism alum Hannah Kliot. Now that Hannah’s college years face their moment of pomp & circumstance, she’s excited about the unknown to follow. “I’m still really keeping my options open,” she says. “But I think, in a weird way, journalism kind of introduced me to law as well….So I am looking to do either investigative journalism that’s kind of exposing injustice…working with a broadcast outlet with investigative journalism or with working on the actual legal side of things. I think they’re both really interesting and…my college experience has really brought out my interest in both of those.”

Hannah applied early decision to Northwestern four years ago when the world felt like a different place. A few days after hitting send on her college application, she turned 18 just in time “to vote for Barack Obama and his legacy.” Four years later, Hannah’s trying on her cap and gown, President Obama has become an ordinary citizen, and the United States is a place ripe for the kind of journalism she admires and practices. She is “disheartened” by President Trump’s denigration of the press, but feels “empowered” seeing “journalists and citizens alike getting together to prove him wrong…We didn’t see this coming because journalists weren’t looking at everyone in America. We weren’t telling everyone’s story.” Hannah promises to take the road not taken to “places where people’s stories aren’t always told” and cast a spotlight on them.

She values Northwestern for giving her so many opportunities to experiment with storytelling. For Hannah, Wildcat country was also “a good school” that struck a diverse balance between work and play. “You just have people with such a variety of interests,” she says,  “I have friends who are engineers. I have friends who are at Medill. I have friends who are actors… I have friends in the social policy school. So you get such an amalgamation of people, who have such different interests and I really love that.”

That diverse, strong community and contagious school spirit erupts across campus on a Wildcat gameday and in the classroom every day of the semester. While she picked NU for its brilliant academic reputation, she wasn’t sure which classroom was for her and enrolled both undecided. “I knew I was interested in writing, and obviously I had worked with [WFTF], and I really liked telling human stories and a lot of different people and telling their stories,” she says.  “So right away I started taking some journalism classes.” The storytelling nature of journalism made it a natural fit, and the prestigious Medill Journalism School welcomed her talents. Describing the arc of her progress as a writer, she said her writing was thought-provoking but “used to be all over the place.” With great instruction from the Dalton School in New York City, “vision-shaping” guidance from WFTF during her college admissions process, and the rigorous coursework Medill offers, Hannah now “reflects a lot more personally” and considers her ultimate goal in writing a piece before she even sets her fingers to the keyboard. She “gets to the point” and knows how to get it across. What she didn’t know was that she would stumble into a different form of storytelling: broadcast journalism. Using the video, photography, and sound skills she learned in early journalism courses, Hannah concentrated her energies into broadcast journalism, discovering both a new passion and a powerful tool to tell human stories.

As Hannah looks forward to the road after college, she looks back for direction. She honed her journalistic skill set while enrolled in a Medill residency program in San Antonio, where she met hard nightly news deadlines and covered the court system like a real reporter. Those skills mesh well with her passion for criminal justice, which she credits to Medill’s Justice Project, the NU program which gives journalism students a behind-the-scenes look at the legal process. Through this program she worked to exonerate Tommy Ziegler, a Florida man on death row, by learning from all the players — from lawyers and ballistics experts to DNA scientists and convicts — and was exposed to the staggering injustices inherent to the justice system. She conducted an investigation that unearthed crucial, overlooked details in Ziegler’s case alongside a team of her classmates, graduate students, and faculty members. Together, Hannah and her team trawled through decades-old records, interviewed experts and witnesses, and pieced together hundreds of details into a project that culminated in a captivating long-form capstone of the case published under the title Death Denied.

Her work on the Justice Project is just the beginning. She is eager to launch a career with a mission of exposing injustice. So don’t be surprised to find this tenacious WFTF alum beating down doors with the questions that matter.

 

Here is a link to Hannah’s investigative work:

http://www.medilljusticeproject.org/2016/06/13/death-denied-3/

 

Here are links to her College Admissions Essays:

Why Northwestern?

 

http://www.writeforthefuture.com/cultural-combo-b…-and-bat-mitzvah/

Lessons from My Cast of Superheroes

Lessons from My Cast of Superheroes

By Tyler Crow

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 3.44.02 PMThe term “Tech Week” sends shivers down my spine for two reasons: I am in a dark theatre for hours dominated by the responsibility of making sure we have a path to get Rapunzel’s tower onstage or getting a stage from the orphanage to New york City in less than fifteen seconds. I am shielded from the light of day and stars of night. Secondly, these are shivers of excitement. Tech week means that the opening of the show is upon us. Peter Pan will fly just like my superheroes at camp.

“Superheroes: Assemble!”

Superman, Wonderwoman, Batman, and an assortment of others all line up. But instead of towering above me as you might expect, they are clustered below me. This is because these superhumans are 5 years old, and the line is for the swimming pool. In Superhero Camp at Marcos Jewish Community Center of Atlanta Day Camps, I don’t believe in staidly ordering kids into “single file!” We know the room full of 5-year-olds, brandishing shirts with their favorite cartoon heroes, some even wearing full costumes, are much more likely to be attentive to our directives when we engage their imaginations.

Stage management and working with children are my two passions. My ability to orchestrate the buzzing jumble of campers comes directly from my background in stage management. As a stage manager, I’m not visible. In fact, the more inconspicuous my presence, the better. However, I still have the privilege to show what I, along with many others have worked tirelessly to bring to life. Then at camp, I’m the actor and the campers are my scene partners. I have the privilege to play off of their wonderful imaginations, with limitless possibilities.

It started with Fame–I was 11 when I worked as a crew member in a middle school production and fell in love with working backstage. The opportunity to be a spoke on the wheel of an art form that encompases many other singular arts was one I truly valued. Gradually the significance of my spoke became more vital. Beginning my freshman year, I became one of the centermost on the wheel. Similarly, four years ago I began working as a counselor-in-training. Two years later, I became a Group Counselor and last year, I was promoted to Lead Counselor. There are times where I am their counselor, an authority figure in charge of their well-being. However, in my four years climbing the ladder, I realized there were situations in which I needed to be their valiant captain in superpowers training.

The job descriptions for stage manager and lead camp counselor may seem divergent, and once upon a time, they appeared that way to me too. However, in retrospect, the parallels between the roles are striking. First and foremost, there is the meticulous interpretation of the camp’s curriculum and activities, which isn’t so different from taking a script and manifesting its stage directions — as well as the attendant set, props, and lighting needs. Additionally, I often have to improvise when things do not go exactly as planned.

Receiving praise is not my principal motivation. With that said, there is nothing more gratifying than facilitating someone else’s growth or performance — whether it be a part-time actor or a child who’s a part-time superhero.

“Thank you so much for making sure she is included. She loves Superhero camp.” Melissa’s mom told me as she picked up the cheery 5 year old camper. On the first day, her mom worried because her daughter was the only girl in a hoard of 15 boys. Instead, through my tactful inclusion of her into “boys club”, she had a blast, and so did I!

The unquantifiable warmth of kids running up to hug you, with arms outstretched and gleaming smiles, is as invaluable as the applause a show receives at the end of a performance. The positive energy is palpable and helps propel me to accomplish even more.

Tyler Crow, a graduate of Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia, will be a freshman at Emerson College in the fall.

Saving A Life Saves My Game

Saving A Life Saves My Game

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 3.02.32 PMSaving A Life Saves My Game

By Carter Bell

It was the first time I saved a life and my second day of life guarding.

As usual, hoards of children poured into the pool. I looked at their faces; focusing on their eyes. They spoke to me: I trust you, they said. Maybe they trusted me too much. Why else would a 10 year old who could not swim jump off a diving board into 12 feet of water?

Billy looked like a swimmer. He climbed the diving board ladder assured, obscuring the fact the he was a novice.

Splash!

The pool engulfed him. He could not swim. His hands ascended to the surface, while his head remained submerged. His frantic hands spoke to me: “HELP” they said. I responded immediately. I jumped in and swiftly paddled over to the hands calling to me in distress. I sunk underneath Billy to place the tube underneath him. His body rose with mine, as we gently floated to the surface. He coughed when his mouth hit the air, it was as if he had taken his first breath again — a sign that he was alive.  

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Silence marked his reply.

The cheers and laughs that I had known as the white noise had faded. All I heard was the ripples in the water and his breath as I looked around at a crowd devoid of sound — it was eerie.

I spent the remainder of my summer wincing at every splash. I couldn’t sit still. I must admit the image of Billy laying on the pool deck remained with me when my summer job ended and I began to hear the familiar chant of preseason football: “123 Knights 456 Win.”

I dreaded the thought of practice and the season. I no longer lived through the vicarious vehicle of my imagination: Peyton Manning was no longer a destination, he was just another icon reduced to the hall of my youth, as was the banter — the boyhood camaraderie — that came with novelty yet stayed past its due, like Grandy’s christmas present, a Manning Colts jersey I received at 10 but still expected to be worn at 15. Did football and I no longer fit?

Moreover, Billy’s near death experience highlights the fact that death can be quick and unpredictable; life is not promised or certain; why, then, should I waste time doing something I no longer love? Here I am, under the burning sun bombarded by “down,up, one; down,up,two.” Perhaps my passion for playing the game has fallen from me; perhaps this object of love no longer fits, like my Manning jersey; perhaps I have outgrown my zeal for the game; or perhaps sitting atop the pool is where I belong.

I am not a quitter. So I search for ways to make the game fun again and, surprisingly, Billy is my role model. Though I am not looking to do anything to bring me close to death, I decide to take some risks on the field. The biggest one is pushing my coach to allow me to change positions. For years, I played a smaller role on my team as an offensive guard. I decided to train harder to play both defensive end and right offensive tackle, both positions that I had never played before.  

During the off season, I continued to push myself. I entered and won weightlifting competitions and carried more confidence on the field: bigger blocks, bone crushing hits, and sacks for breakfast — lunch, and of course, dinner.

The water and Billy’s breath held my pool’s white noise prisoner, but the eerie proximity to death motivated me to take a chance with life.

Carter Bell, a graduate of Richwoods High School’s IB Program, will be a freshman at Harvard University in the fall.

 

A Voice Grows with a Walk to the Front of the Class

A Voice Grows with a Walk to the Front of the Class

By Cameryn Lacey

Cammi LaceyI walked through the rows of desks with my books clenched to my chest and the words “don’t fall” chanting in my head. The boys in the classroom were my friends; some were even considered close friends. However, the environment felt different.

It was my first day in Human Anatomy, of all classes. I have never been the only girl in a room of all boys, and I didn’t know how to conduct myself. Do I sit in the front of the class or in the back? Should I raise my hand or stay quiet? Could I ask for clarification or would everyone be annoyed?

The walk to the back of the classroom felt like a never-ending aisle. I wanted to turn around and run out of class, but that wasn’t an option. Instead, I sat down and counted down the minutes until class would be dismissed.

I pulled my notebook out and listened as the teacher explained the systems that make up the human anatomy. When I looked up at the board, I couldn’t see anything she was writing. The boy in front of me was so tall I could not maneuver myself around him. However, I was too scared to ask him to move, so I sat there staring at the back of his head.  When the teacher left the room to make copies, all the boys broke out into discussion about the game on TV last night. I knew nothing about the game that enraged them, so I twiddled my thumbs, praying that class would end.

The teacher returned and there were thirty minutes left. I realized I didn’t have one word written on the page. While staring at my notebook, I began to have an internal debate. I grappled with the idea of raising my hand to ask for help, but was nervous about how that would be perceived by my classmates. I didn’t want to be the girl who asked all the questions. After a long internal debate, I raised my hand and asked the teacher if it would be possible for me to switch with someone in the front.

“Sure,” she said.

That moment changed me. The uncomfortableness I faced fin that moment of reshman year served as a model for me to speak up. I learned how to take initiative for myself, how to do what was best for me and how not to seek approval from those around me. If I had continued to sit behind that boy I would not have learned anything. By asking to change seats, I took the first step. As minor as changing seats seemed, it changed everything for me. It became the reason I knew how to deal with offensive language when I arrived at my new all girl’s boarding school in my sophomore year.

I grew up in a household where the N-word was unacceptable; therefore I was surprised when I heard the N-word used at Miss Porter’s. Initially, I was unsure of how to react. I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble but I also felt disrespected. I decided to set up a meeting with the Dean’s office to discuss the situation. Although my part in the long run appears small and insignificant, ultimately the role I played was crucial. It led to a campus wide open conversation on offensive language. This much needed dialogue occurred because I chose to speak up about the problem

I have grown up a lot between since freshman year. I’m no longer that timid girl who was afraid of conflict. Instead I am the girl who is not ashamed to use her voice and speak up for herself and for what is right is my community. I was able to find my voice during that walk to the front of the classroom, and I refused to lose it.

 

Cameryn Lacey, a graduate of Miss Porter’s School, is a freshman the College of Charleston.

Healing Through Music

Healing Through Music

By  Camille Odom

unnamedDead? I sat on the loveseat staring into oblivion. How could the ever-smiling girl with a heart of gold be dead? How could the girl who took me to Chipotle for my first time ever, wanting to be the first to do it, be dead? Dead. The word was too heavy, and I could not deal with the weight of such a finite thing. I finally cried. Every ounce of my soul tried to cry the pain away. It was music, my medicine, that rescued me from the despair of losing a friend to a house fire.

Five years before Jasmine’s death, I first saw the power of music to soothe pain. I was ten years old and walked to center-court at a New York Liberty game ready to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” My vocals were accompanied only by a lone trumpet. It was just the microphone and me––and a full-capacity Madison Square Garden.

I looked into the crowd and saw thousands of flashing lights. The announcer said my name, the crowd cheered, and the music started. Ohh, say can you seeeeeeeeeee.

I wasn’t nervous while singing. In fact, my mother was more nervous than me. I saw her visibly shaking. “Someone get this woman a Valium,” I thought.

 

The song was going well, but then it was time for the high note. Considering I started two octaves above what I’d practiced, the note should’ve been a cause for concern, but it was too late to turn back now: And the land of the freeee. Whew. Flawless. The crowd went wild with cheers and whistles. The tension left my mom’s shoulders.

 

At ten years old, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of this monumental opportunity. The power of the moment was more about Mom. I will never forget how the music eased my mother’s anxiety. The melodious high note was the antidote to her worries.

 

I now see the lasting message in that moment: Music can be a doctor or patient’s best friend. While I love the natural sciences––after all, I am an aspiring physician––music and medicine are closely correlated in my worldview. The right song can improve a bad day. I plan on integrating music into my medical practice as much as possible. As a small child, I watched my baby brother get shots. His fear was embodied with discordant, gut-wrenching screams. Maybe if smooth jazz had acted as an anesthetic, it would’ve calmed his nerves, and he wouldn’t have been so terrified of the shot administered to help him.

 

Music carried me through that tough moment of waking up to both my parents staring at me. “We have something to tell you,” my mom said. Dread settled in my chest. “It’s about your friend, Jasmine.” Jasmine hadn’t come in that day, but no one thought much of it because she had gone to a Beyoncè concert the previous night.  

“Early this morning, Jasmine’s house caught fire. She and her two sisters were both on the top floor. I’m sorry Jasmine is dead.”

I didn’t want to do anything but stay crouched in the fetal position and cry my brains out. Eventually, I played Donnie McClurkin’s “Stand.” The triumphant tone, the strength in the singers’ voices, and the blaring of the instruments combated my defeated mood. The words of the song encompassed everything I was feeling: “And how can you smile when your heart has been broken and filled with pain? The song also gave me the best advice for that moment: “Don’t you dare give up through the storm. Stand through the rain, through the hurt. Yeah, through the pain. Don’t you bow, and don’t you bend. Don’t give up, no, don’t give in. Hold on. Just be strong. God will step in. And it won’t be long.”

 

Music was the only way I could pick up my spirits. Music eased my pain. Music was my medicine.

 

Camille Odom, a graduate of Saint Saviour High School, is a freshman at Spelman College.

Practicing for the Game Outside the Painted Lines

Practicing for the Game Outside the Painted Lines

By Natalie Moorehead   natalie1

I’d like to thank my mom and dad for every three-pointer that I’ve ever scored. I love to play basketball, but unlike math, it never came easy to me. My dedication to the sport was motivated by my discovery that basketball serves as the perfect refuge from a horrific, life-changing event. “Natalie and Parke, your father and I are getting a divorce.”

The moment felt never-ending as I listened to my parents explain how this had nothing to do with my brother and me, but with their own relationship. This had everything to do with me. I questioned myself and what I could’ve done wrong. I felt betrayed and rejected by my own parents. I suddenly held new responsibilities for myself and my brother due to all the changes occurring.

At 10 years old, coping with a drastic life event was unfamiliar to me. I tried many different ways of taking my mind off all the overwhelming emotions, but nothing was effective. In seventh grade, everything changed. On the basketball court, my thoughts about the stresses of going between two households disappeared. Basketball always required hard work because at 5’1” I do not fit the typical mold of a basketball player. Basketball provided a challenge large enough to demand a huge focus when I needed to divert my thoughts. The self worth I lost over the divorce returned when I was on the court. By freshman year, my goal was to one day make the high school varsity team.

Every day prior to tryouts my freshman year, I was building my skills by practicing my shot or playing with my team. My work paid off and I not only made the freshman team, but was captain as well. I motivated my team each practice and game to strive for success. Soon, my goal to make varsity felt within reach. After spending the next summer in the gym, I made the junior varsity team as a sophomore. So far, so good. I was on the path to making varsity.

As nervous as I was during tryouts, my skill exceeded the jitters and I made the varsity team. I secured playing time in the first three games, after which my playing time decreased until I spent all of my time on the bench. As our coach discovered each girl’s playing style, mine did not fit her vision for the team. After many hours of being the chief bench-warmer, I considered whether my dream was a fraud as expectations to play became unrealistic.

I felt years of working hard wasn’t paying off. On top of this, my feet constantly nagged me to give up: my soles burned, my arches throbbed, and my knees felt as if they were being hit with hammers. I sacrificed time and energy that could have been spent completing homework, catching up on desperately needed sleep, and even participating in family vacations. But I wouldn’t let any of those feelings conquer me. I continued to focus on how much I love the game.

Currently, I am working with a private trainer, playing fall basketball, and attending open gyms in preparation for my final varsity season. I won’t give up now; this is my chance. I want this in every fiber of my being. This is the dream that keeps me putting one step forward when I am worn out and beaten down.  

My coach now says I will likely get a lot of playing time this year. If something happens to alter that promise, I may be disappointed, but that will not destroy my love of the game. I will keep playing. I know I can find a way to adapt to life after a big disappointment. The life changing moment in fifth grade prepared me to cope with the things that come with life.

Natalie Moorehead, a graduate of Redwood High School, will be a freshman at Chapman University.

Losing Themselves in Deceptive Assumptions

Losing Themselves in Deceptive Assumptions

By Cameron King

13521981_1012098732206193_1754789256547404404_n“Tell me about your knee.” After looking me up and down, he asks, “Do you play football?”

“No. I don’t. I’m not sure how I hurt it.” My knees had been killing me for months and I was finally seeing an orthopedist.

“You don’t play football? You look like a football player. You know, because you’re . . . big.” Caught off guard, like most people when I tell them I don’t play football, he responded, “Do you play any other sports?”

“Yes. Basketball and track.”

“Forward?”

“No. I play center.”

“And track?”

“I jump, throw shot put and run sprints.”

“Are you planning on going to college? I don’t mean to intrude, but—”

“Yes. I plan on going to college,” I respond quickly. I start to feel annoyed with his lack of attention to my knee.

“Well, with this injury, you will have to start rethinking what you’re going to do. You may want to consider something other than sports. Like history or medicine.”

I pause for a moment.

He continues, “I don’t mean to discourage you, but you may not make it to the professional level on those knees.”

I say, “I’m not planning to go to college for sports. I want to study computer science or electrical engineering.”

This time he doesn’t even attempt to hide his shock. “Oh, you do? You know you need to have good grades for that, right?”

Careful not to reveal my mounting frustration, I smile, breaking the silence, “I know that it’s difficult, but I think I can do it . . . so, my knee?”

My mother, a Caribbean immigrant, has stressed the value of an education for as long as I remember. Going to college for sports was never my intention, but people’s expectations of me are incessant. I’m constantly asked:

“Where’s your scouting video?”

“Are you looking into D1 schools?”

“Have you contacted coaches yet?”

I am a 6 foot 3 inch, 240-pound African-American male. People see me and assume that college sports are my key to a bright future. Sports are fun, but my passion lies in computer science and technology. While I do participate in sports, I spend more time making video games, apps, websites, robots, and 3D printed objects. But even at hackathons, I’m often written off because of my appearance: “You don’t really look like a programmer . . .”

Basketball has never been my calling. In eighth grade, the coach pressured me to play on the school team. I joined and during the first game, I started but to much disappointment, I scored on the wrong basket. I felt the need to redeem myself. In high school, I joined JV, became co-captain and then moved up to varsity. Yes, my basketball skills dramatically improved, however, I only played in the first place because I was told that I was an “Oreo” for not. An Oreo, as in not truly Black on the inside–as if to say being Black is to only be able to play basketball well.

Because African Americans make up a minority of those in the tech industry, I understand that it may be hard to believe that the varsity center also coded the school newspaper’s website, or that he led a 3-day computer science workshop for fellow students. I know that someone like me, in terms of race and appearance, may not look like the founder of a tech startup, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am the co-founder of MYOSK, and we intend to launch sales of gesture-controlled electric skateboards next year.

While I want to play at the club level, I dream not of being the next NBA player, but rather, of being the CEO of my own company. You may look at me and assume I’m just another athlete. I can’t change that. I am used to people discounting my interests based on their perceptions of me, but I’ll never let their assumptions circumscribe my ambitions.

Cameron King, a graduate of Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, is a freshman at Duke.

Visions of an Orchestra in Coaching Football

Visions of an Orchestra in Coaching Football

By Zachary Clarke

FullSizeRenderAt 16, I was the youngest coach in a tiny room with loud, overly competitive men fighting to grab the best players for their teams. The prospects were 11 and 12 year old boys in a flag football league. Welcome to my Community Service requirement.

 

Judging from the intense demeanor of the other coaches, I thought I was actually entering the NFL draft. They were all over 40 and most had a son in the league. I was a high school sophomore barely older than my players.

 

After the first day of tryouts, I checked my list to see who I was going to pick. I looked at the 40 yard dash times, Shuttle times, passes catched, and other football drills that were recorded during tryouts. The competition was tight and the other coaches were taking it maybe a little too seriously.

 

Nico was the player that caught the other coaches eyes. His speed and agility was unmatched by the other players and I was thrilled that he was my first choice.

 

Near the end of the Draft, after all the most athletic players were picked, I started to look for the sleeper pick–the hidden gem that everyone missed. On my sheet, I spotted Aden, a player who was taller than most of the other 11-12 year olds. Awkward, gangly, with wild curly hair, he was one of my last draft picks. He was very clumsy and barely able to catch a football, but I thought he might have potential.  Boy, was I right.

Beyond the draft, the experience turned the football field into a classroom.

“Nico, what are you doing?!” I yelled in the second game. My team was on defense and I told Nico to protect the middle. Unfortunately for me and the team, Nico decided to go after the quarterback.  Like a matador dancing around a bull, the opposing quarterback took one step to the side and Nico, running full speed, missed his flag and ran past him.

By the end of the season, I accepted that some players like Nico, despite their talent, were headaches.  Others like Aden were ripe to become talented players, like I was primed to become a strong saxophone player when I was Aden’s age. I have been playing saxophone since Seventh grade. Initially, I had tremendous trouble reading sheet music. My teacher, Mr. Udden, worked with me diligently. He appreciated my strengths and diligently worked with me in my areas of weakness.

“That’s not the right rhythm; play it again slower and take it one note at a time,” he would say. It was a very time consuming process. As a coach, I exhibited similar patience with Aden. I constantly encouraged him to channel his aggression into becoming a strong defensive player. Aden’s long arms could reach out and knock balls right out of the air. His physique and shy personality were deceptive. I saw that Aden, with encouragement,  became a stronger player just as I became a stronger musician.

Today I read music without struggling.

Coaching enlightened me to the responsibilities leadership: to bring out the best in my team. Through coaching,  I also learned to see talent beyond the surface. Aden and I both had major weaknesses, however, since our teachers found our strengths, we succeeded.  I gained new insights into what a coach or musical conductor needs from a member of the team or orchestra turning me into a new musician and athlete. Baseball is actually my favorite sport. Who would have thought I would become a better pitcher through coaching football?

 

Near the end of the season, Aden saved the day. In the 4th quarter we led by a touchdown. The opposing team was on their last down. Aden, doing what he does best, hopped up and slapped the ball to the ground. He flashed a winning smile as his teammates dogpiled him after that game-winning play.

 

Zachary Clarke, a graduate of the Packer Collegiate Institute, is a freshman at Morehouse College.