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  • “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

Voices that Live Forever

Voices that Live Forever

By Alexa McKellips

unnamedMy scalpel slices through the corpus callosum into the sheep’s brain. A rush of excitement overtakes me as I experience a glimpse of my future as a doctor. I embrace the opportunity of this dissection in my physiology class and only wish I could share the experience with my grandparents or my Aunt Diane, a teacher, with an unyielding interest in my learning.

Then there were the annual birthday letters from Grandma Jenny and Grandpa Dwaine, urging me to follow my ambitions. My family inspired my drive. When I started my pet sitting business in the fourth grade, my family cheered as the business continued to grow with more than 10 clients.

Yet some of the family cheerleaders are no longer here. I lost four influential family members–three grandparents and an aunt– within a short span of time as I transitioned from middle school to high school.

 I can still hear the sound of my Grandpa Dwain’s voice during Thanksgiving as he tells my Aunt Cindy that her Swedish meatballs are not considered Swedish meatballs because they were the size of baseballs. I recall the summers I spent with my Grandmother Theresa along Lake Michigan at the Calatrava Art Museum and the taste of my aunt’s homemade boysenberry jam.

A cheerful voice interrupts the flood of memories of my beloved two grandmothers, grandfather and Aunt Diane. “Hi, you must be Alexa.” I suddenly flinch and turn around. I see a tall lady with red, curly hair.  “Welcome to Aegis Assisted Living Home,” she said.

When I volunteered at Aegis in the spring of my sophomore year, I found remnants of the wisdom of my aunt and my grandparents surrounding me every day. I developed relationships with the residents and they shared their advice that motivated my drive and triggered memories of my relatives.

I spent many days at Aegis with Anne, a resident who saw resemblances of my desire to capture my dreams in the way she followed her love of tennis.  “Alexa,” she would say, “It is important to accept every opportunity that you are given. You will acquire knowledge that will help you in your future. There may be difficult times, but they will benefit you as well.”

When I told Anne about my strong desire to be a doctor, her excitement was infectious and inspiring. I felt Anne’s influence long after my time at Aegis. I spent last summer working in the education department at Marin General Hospital where I attended classes for the doctors and nurses that ranged from how to put in a catheter to how to deal with aggressive patients. Even though I initially felt intimidated sitting next to highly-valued doctors from the hospital, I soon opened myself up when I was asked to work with a group of physicians to figure out the workings of a new app they would be using. To find my confidence, I thought back to a Anne and Eve, another Aegis resident.  Eve was blind and soft spoken but she would speak for herself and share her viewpoints confidently.   “Eve, it has been warming up outside; it feels like it is almost Spring.  I love this weather,” I would say.  “Actually, I like it better when it is Autumn and it is windy outside,”  

Just as Eve was comfortable sharing her views, I led the doctors through understanding the complicated app by showing them how they could log onto a patient’s profile before seeing the patient and communicate with other doctors who were working with the same patient. The doctors were very accepting, just like the residents at Aegis.

It has been five years since I experienced the sudden loss of family members. Today their words of support still have the same value. The residents at Aegis helped to inspire my flashbacks and memories that will guide me through challenges to come.

 

Alexa McKellips, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a graduate of Redwood High School.

Finding the Voice and Moves to Power

 Nyla ThompsonBy Nyla Thompson                 

The lights snap on and the stage brightens with five black silhouettes standing confidently in a line near the cream-colored backdrop. Their bodies are still until the haunting sounds of Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit” begin to play. The dancers walk in unison, pausing to intermittently circle their own axes, emblematic of their everyday spheres.

Like me, they were not born with the knowledge of injustice or the social construct of race in America. I choreographed this beginning to highlight our innocence at birth. My dancers gently sway and kick their feet in unison until the music changes and the dance continues. They explore chaotic feelings created by racial injustice and ignite the need for solidarity. Flashing lights come on as an aggressive hip-hop beat drops interrupting Holliday’s sample, and the dancers erupt with forceful movements.

No one had ever used the Spring Dance Concert as such an active form of social justice. I was determined to make a statement about events triggering the Black Lives Matter movement and also expose my challenges as an African American girl at my predominantly white school. I addressed both by combining my training from Alvin Ailey and the Fieldston Dance Company to choreograph the dance ”Blood On The Leaves. “

I’ve attended Fieldston since first grade and did not notice racial injustice during my early years there. I experienced the school, known for being liberal, much like its reputation of openness. Then in eighth grade, my math teacher, without any justification, attempted to prevent the placement of some students of color into an advanced math class. I felt that all of my hard work throughout the year had little value. This situation introduced me to faculty of color who stood up and helped move me into my rightful place in the advanced class. Little did I know, this support network would help inspire my choreography.

Months prior to my choreography I had a provocative conversation with an African-America friend from another private school.

“My biggest fear is being average,” he told me as we walked through Central park.

His words continued to stir my thoughts long after our walk in the park. As African Americans, we are often not expected to be the best or the brightest due to unspoken stereotypes. I’ve often been judged and seen as a tokenization fulfillment. This places enormous pressure on me to defy expectations when given the opportunity to benefit from privileges from like attending and being in advanced classes at my private school. I was determined to address this “average” mold, and adopted my friend’s fear as my own personal motivation. My dance was the perfect medium to bring my feelings regarding recent racial tensions to the attention of my peers and make my presence known as someone who exceeds these stereotypical expectations at Fieldston.

I wanted to make my dance as powerful as possible. I used movements of hands up in surrender and hands clasped around necks to symbolize choking, as homage to Black Lives Matter. The song “Blood On The Leaves” tackles issues of racial injustice in society. I chose the costumespedestrian style, black hoodies and khaki-colored pantsto emphasize racial injustice occurring on a daily basis, symbolically paying homage to Trayvon Martin. And finally, the lighting helped by allowing the powerful image of my dancers in silhouette with hoods on their heads.

I received the first standing ovation for a dance performed at a school-wide assembly, leading students and faculty to engage in conversations about race for the remainder of the day. My Dean approached me tearfully thanking me for choreographing the piece. I saw my power and potential to help even faculty members speak about race in new and constructive ways. I want to cultivate my evolving voice in college. I will continue to use my identity, talents, and passions as tools to disrupt comfort zones that undermine the value of diversity and promote racial stereotypes.
Nyla Thompson, a freshman at Williams College, is a graduate of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.

Football, English and Independence

Football, English and Independence

By Ethan Thompson

Ethan Thompson

The final buzzer inspires my euphoria. My team wins the 10th straight conference game. As the lone freshman on varsity basketball, I garner 8 points and 4 assists. However, a common disappointment spoils the victory when I exit the court.

“Your dad had a meeting at a church member’s house,” Mom says.

From a young age, I realized Dad didn’t have a normal 9 to 5 job. As a minister, his hours were unpredictable. Church related matters could call him away at any moment.  My mother, the Dean of Business at a college in the Bronx, also worked long hours, so I learned to exercise independence. After school, I made my own meals instead of waiting four hours for Mom to get home. On Saturdays, I practiced basketball on my own. Before I knew it, tenth grade came and I was packing the family car to move into my dorm room at Avon Old Farms.  

I walked in the gym and the light from the windows shone down on the floor, letting me see dust particles floating in the air. I smelt 100 perspiring boys selecting a sport. A burly man with a lumberjack’s beard eyed me up and down with an inviting smile when I arrived at a table with a signup sheet. .

“You ever play football before?” he asked.

“No sir, my mom’s against it.”

“Well you’ll never know what you’re missing until you try it. Why don’t you come down to practice and see how you like it, and if it seems like something you want to do, I’ll have a conversation with your mother.”

Something about him compelled me to add my name to the sheet. The next day, the sun blared on my face as my friend Abel and I walked down to the first freshman team football practice of the year. As Abel blabbered on about preferring the Russian cold over this 85 degree weather, I admired the landscape of the athletic fields. The cicadas buzzed throughout the trees and the grasshoppers leapt away. I was at the dawn of a new life.

After a full week of waking up at 5:45 for workouts with our ex-Marine athletic director, then having two practices, I felt I could get through anything. Then came the surprise. I arrived at practice and the assistant coach asked me to join two teammates in the locker room. Minutes later, cheers and applause greet us as we approached the field. We were captains. I was in shock after just learning to play the sport over the past three weeks. Then Abel yelled, “DOGPILE!” I was engulfed under sweaty, sour smelling, pad protected boys. At that moment, I learned the true meaning of camaraderie.

Football fed my hunger for challenge and forced me to balance my independence with the importance of teamwork. In fact, football didn’t encourage the independent streak I cultivated at home. It did the opposite, pushing me to look at things in a broader perspective and see the bigger picture. When you are part of a football team, everything you do affects the team and your performance on game day in ways that differ from basketball.

Two weeks into this school year, I saw the influence of football on my life. I was exhausted on a Wednesday, when we have half a day of classes and grueling practices. I wanted to just hop in my bed and sleep until the next day, but when I checked veracross, I realized I had three single page essays due in English on Thursday. I could have just taken a penalty for handing them in late. Instead, I faced the challenge in the football way. I poured my heart and soul into three pages of writing, even though I was exhausted. I received a 93 for the combined grade of the essays. It felt like catching a 40 yard pass.

 

Ethan Thompson, a graduate of Avon Old Farms School, is a freshman at Hampton University.

The Visual Path To Solutions

The Visual Path To Solutions

jessica-dibbleBy Jessica Dibble

My biggest cheerleaders are my “worries” on the wall. In the middle of junior year, I am alone as my anxieties grow with a test approaching in Honors Pre-Calculus.  I grab my sticky note pad, write the worry about the test, and post it on my bed with the words: “Believe and Breathe” to calm myself. This becomes the birth of a habit that highlights the power of visuals in my life. By writing down a worry and viewing it, I am empowered to  overcome the challenge  in front of me.

Writing my worries on the wall also unites my two passions – psychology and photography. In my psychology class, I am drawn  to the problem-solving concepts of psychologists, specifically the idea of  writing as a tool to solve problems.Through my affinity for visuals, photography is my passion and a window into understanding people.

I remember the sight that made me realize the power of photography. She is in the back corner of  my eighth grade history class and I can’t stop staring at her. Surrounded by other posters, she draws me in with piercing green eyes. It’s the famous Afghan Girl by photographer Steve McCurry. I realize in that class that I am drawn to photography and as a budding photographer, I yearn to discover the context of the picture. I learn that the beautiful, striking girl is a refugee in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Hoping to understand the people around me on a deeper level, I bought my first camera after that class and started taking photography classes. The more I took pictures, the more curious I became about people in those pictures and their motivations. My hunger to understand people and their minds led me to one of my favorite classes in my junior year–psychology.

I studied the unique experiments and the special studies of people in Psychology, which connected my curiosity to photography and my love of portraits. The summer before my psychology class, I won a National Geographic photography fellowship to take pictures in Barcelona, where I walked around a cathedral and found a young girl in a pink dress heading toward the doors. Instead of stepping inside, she only poked her head through the doors. I decided to take a photo of the young girl because I could tell she was curious to see what was inside the cathedral yet scared to enter. I treasure this photograph because it represents the idea of taking a chance on the unknown.I wanted to capture optimism, and this image  portrays  a young girl taking a leap of faith. Even if I’m surrounded by sadness, I try to find a way to capture hope out of misery and bring optimism to others, just as writing my worries did for me.

Two years ago, my grandparents and cousins came to my house to celebrate my birthday, which I also share with my grandfather. We were all sitting in my backyard chatting and laughing together. I saw that my grandfather was sitting distant from us, observing our interactions. He had a smile on his face for the first time in months because he had been very sick. I knew at that moment that I wanted to capture  a photograph  of him.I approached him and asked him to look at me. I took the photo of him smiling and staring directly at the camera with his soft hazel eyes. I used this ordinary family gathering to create a picture that I now cherish deeply.

Today, I continue to write my worries to release tension at the end of the day. The  process of writing reawakens my confidence to pursue the exciting and challenging opportunities ahead, alongside  my friend, the camera. I have become more optimistic, the same quality I love to bring to photography and psychology.

Jessica Dibble, a graduate of Winston Churchill High School, will be a freshman at Wellesley College in the Fall, following her Gap Year.

Almost Twins

Almost Twins

screen-shot-2016-06-01-at-3-46-17-pmBy Phoebe Chase

I am the youngest of three children and the only daughter in my family, but some say I have a twin sister. We’re eerily similar and equally sociable. We have the same, somewhat strange, sense of humor. We’re the same height — five foot one and three quarters of an inch to be exact. Thirty years may separate us in age, but that doesn’t diminish the similarities between my mom and me. As a young teenager this was pretty embarrassing. I mean, let’s face it, what kid wants to look and sound identical to her mom? But one seemingly ordinary day last fall, that feeling changed.

My mom was taking me to her office. This was my first time seeing her in a professional setting. It had been 16 years since she had last worked in real estate development, 16 years since she had last worked at all. After a lifetime of my dad going off to work every day, and my mom raising my brothers and me, my parents divorced. We had to sell our home, and my mom returned to work in order to support our family.

When we arrived at my mom’s office, I was shocked to see her in this element — giving presentations in giant conference rooms to intimidating executives, fielding questions from employees, and collaborating with co-workers. At first I thought, “when had she become this person?” But then something eye opening and empowering happened. Watching her in action, I recognized that the way in which she operates at work is the same way in which she operates at home. My mom has a natural ability to thrive in any environment. She can be lighthearted and fun as well as assertive and successful.

It wasn’t a metamorphosis at all. It’s who my mom is. It is also very much who I am. I’m reminded of my family’s first holiday after my parents’ divorce. For as long as I can remember, holidays were hosted by my mom. That year we were celebrating at my dad’s new apartment with just my brothers and me. As Dad loves to recall, I picked up on the apprehension and took over by initiating conversation, doing my best to entertain everyone, and making them feel more comfortable. Within an instant, the mood shifted, and I seemed to transform nervous energy into laughter. I used to roll my eyes at this story. Now I realize the value in it. Without even trying, I had done for others what my mom had always done for me.

That day at work was an incredible catalyst. It changed the way I looked at my mom, and subsequently, the way I looked at myself – really, the way I looked at life. I suddenly understood what it must feel like to be an adult, to rely almost entirely on oneself. I had always been accustomed to having my mom at home, but I finally recognized that I needed to use my inner resources, my own innate qualities, just as my mom did at work. The ability to exert stability and confidence regardless of the circumstances was my biggest takeaway, and I now embraced my new found independence. I realized how liberating it can be to find success on my own and to make my own choices. Whether it’s acting as a source of reliability for my friends, being someone they can turn to for advice, or making tough decisions and going out of my comfort zone, I know that wherever I go in life or whatever obstacles I may face, I will always have this strength within myself. I now know that I am able to remain unwavering in who I am, which is why I am rarely seen without a smile on my face.

 

Phoebe Chase, a 2016 graduate of The Dalton School, is a freshman at Northwestern.

A Kid Grows up with Dinner Parties

A Kid Grows up with Dinner Parties

By Jared Bowser

unnamedLights out! Another power outage in Haiti. A voice pierces the sweltering air in the dark room.

“Damn! It’s been two years. Rebuild, you broke black bastards!”

The words shot out of Hector’s mouth like the smoke from a bullet. There were five guys in the hotel room at the time. The others chuckled while I was in shock. I had met them all, including Hector, a Dominican peer, months ago while training for our one-month cultural immersion adventure to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We had experienced power outages in the Dominican Republic, but no one had complained in an offensive way.

Beyond my shock, I did not get angry or emotional. Instead, a puzzling question ran through my mind: What leads people to such casual, racially offensive behavior? The question took me back to the discourse of the dinner parties that shaped my youth.

I am 11, shivering and waiting to see who would answer the door. Mom rings the doorbell at Aunt Jeanne’s brownstone. Aunt Sydney answers this timea tall black woman with long dreads down to her back. We enter to  warm hugs and kisses and follow the smell of collard greens to the dinner table.

My Aunt Jeanne has been hosting monthly dinners in her home since I was born. She loves to cook for people, and her dinner guests love to talk politics. I am often, by far, the youngest there. From Iraq to Obama, I am  invited to join the conversation with questions. The table always seems impressed by my answers or are good enough actors to make me feel comfortable with my opinions. They acknowledge  my views. Soon after their infatuation with the youngster fades, I humbly return to the conversation as an equal. The table teaches me to question from a place of thoughtfulness rather than resort to emotional anger.  

Having been adopted by a single woman, I grew up around my mom’s friends, women in their forties and fifties who would eagerly discuss President Obama, the War in Iraq or the recession. In middle school, my inquisitiveness and connection to adults translated into a fondness for teachers and for knowledge. I spent free time discussing current events and becoming a teacher’s pet.

My trip to Haiti the summer after my freshman year was the turning point. Days after Hector’s  comment, I thought about my silence in the hotel room and failure to go beyond the analysis of my mind to respond with action. Why was it easy for me to analyze why he would make such a comment, but so difficult to discuss race with a peer? I certainly would have been comfortable discussing the comment with an adult,  whether it be  a teacher or someone at Aunt Jeanne’s table.

When I returned to school, I  pushed myself to connect with  my generation and encouraged discussion of current events with peers. The big opportunity came during a casual conversation  in the quad about the civil rights movement after a class discussion during Black History Month. A white friend called the Black Panthers “the black Ku Klux Klan.” I explained that the Panthers  weren’t a terrorist group and in fact  provided sustenance for thousands through their breakfast programs, created safe places to convene after school, led non-lethal self-defense training, and acted as a deterrent to the type of police brutality we now only see because of the ubiquitous presence of cameras today.

“Wow, I didn’t know that.”

My classmates had absorbed what they read  from President Nixon’s descriptions of the Panthers in skewed history textbooks – a falsified revisionist history. I was happy to be the wipers to their windshields.  By the end of the year, I made more friends  with diverse  perspectives who enjoyed discussing  current events as much as the adults at Aunt Jeanne’s dinners.

Jared Bowser, a 2016 graduate of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, is a freshman at Bard College.

The Mission that Matured with Allergies

The Mission that Matured with  Allergies

By Dani Eisman

Happy Birthday ddani-eismanear Auri! Happy Birthday to you! Hebrew! Yom hu’ledet sameach (x5) Are you 4 are you 5 are you 6? Yay!!! Everyone else erupts with applause, shouting “yea!” but I feel like “ugh.”  I envy kids competing for the first bites of the delicious looking cake while my mom hands me my “special” non-dairy dark chocolate.

I am allergic to dairy, egg, nuts, seafood, coconut, wheat, and soy. At 18, I no longer attend classic birthday cake parties. Now I am embarrassed at dinner parties when I must refuse certain foods. However, I am thankful for my allergies for influencing a dominant interest and drive in my life–advocating for children with disabilities. While my love for children runs deeper than my allergies, my food struggles are a major source of my empathy for special needs children.

At 13, I discovered this passion with Jill, a family friend born with several physical disabilities in Los Angeles, California. She lacked muscle tone and was resuscitated two times in her first few days of life. She endured three months in the NICU with her parents hoping for her survival.

In my first few days of life, I was also in the NICU due to jaundice and weight loss. A doctor decided to take me off dairy and my symptoms disappeared. Jill, on the other hand, did not have the luck of disappearing symptoms and must work hard for her muscular ability to be on par with children her age.

My experience getting to know Jill sparked my interest to work in the special education field. Whenever she visited us in New York, we were inseparable and I looked forward to family trips to California to see her. I started my first job working for an occupational therapist. A year later, I worked as a summer intern at Parkside, a special education school. By the time I was 15, I created a babysitting service focused on children with special needs.

I have learned the first step in helping children with disabilities is forming a bond. I always find something – a tv show, a favorite sport or color. For example, I formed a relationship based on a dress with a student at Parkside, Carol. She has trouble trusting people and deflects intimacy and instruction by becoming silly, laughing uncontrollably, and running away. I told her how much I loved her blueberry blue dress when it fans out as she twirls and sings “Let it Go.” Thing is – she wears this dress, everyday. I eventually eased Carol into challenging her dress obstacle by pushing her to wear a new dress for a few hours and giving her a sticker reward if she wore a new one.

Carol’s need to wear the same dress daily to feel comfortable reminds me of my need to stay comfortable around food. There was a time when I would tell people I’m not hungry when they offered me food instead of telling them the truth. My allergies and desire to be comfortable eating helped me to understand that children with learning disabilities also simply want to be comfortable, “normal” children.

In order to cope with my food allergies, I learned to bake. Baking has been my answer to the problem of finding food outside the house. I have numerous allergy friendly cookbooks that allow me to eat great desserts without sending me to the ER. I prove to myself that my small disability is manageable. Likewise, many special needs children discover ways to manage their disabilities. It’s rewarding to help them exercise their resourcefulness, form everlasting bonds  and gain humility and empathy along the way. I want to go beyond this joy and gain more knowledge about children with learning disabilities. While my experience allows me to understand children on a deep level, I am eager to find ways to improve the special education field and make the world better for special needs children.

Dani Eisman, a freshman at New York University, is a graduate of the Robert Louis Stevenson School.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At School in the World

At School in the World

By Benjamin Nicholas

ben-nicholasI arrive at Mercy College at 8:30 AM ready to destroy a classroom. When I enter the room, Donkey Kong tosses me aside like a rag doll. I push back, but he doesn’t move. After all, his nickname stems from his huge and muscular stature.
As the youngest worker by more than 9 years at this construction site, I endure a lot of friendly torment. Even Shorty, who stands tall in his 5’1” frame, sometimes knocks me around. Once our team of five is in the classroom, I grab my dust mask. Fooling around ceases. Hernan issues strict directions: “De ceiling es… basura. Break walls, take out de metal. Boom boom boom,” he says, pointing around the room.
We dismantle everything: lighting, ceiling and floor tiles, leaving hundreds of pounds of debris and dust. We haul all the garbage to the dump and then destroy another two classrooms before the work day ends at 3:00 PM. Or for me, Job One ends.
I rush home, jump in the shower and rinse off the dust that covers my entire body – minus what was protected by the dust mask. Then I comb my hair and throw on my khaki shorts and polo shirt, branded with the logo of Elite Pool and Fitness. By 4:00 PM, I arrive at my second job as a groundskeeper at the Bay Terrace Country Club.
I enter the front gate and face normal chaos. Late afternoon is the busiest time. The morning’s Early Bird members still occupy chairs, but after-work families want places to lounge. I immediately fetch chairs from storage.
Groundskeeping is a cakewalk compared to the physical demands of GA Industries. After setting up a family by the kiddie pool, I hear an order: “Hey, can we have 3 lounge chairs near the shallow end?” Before I respond, both parents are off in pursuit of their son, who runs amok with a water gun spraying everything in sight.
I dare not cross the intuitive boundary and help the parents. I chuckle to myself while sympathizing with them, considering my experience handling rebellious kids. Along with two summer jobs, I volunteer as a basketball coach for my local parish. My team of 11 hyperactive fifth graders are lovable but sometimes unpredictable, which teaches me to maintain control while handling the rowdiest kid.
Bill is by far the most defiant. He will try anything to entertain himself and hates to answer to anyone. Constantly bragging and taunting others, he wants everyone to know he is the best player on the team. As I instruct my players to run a three-man weave, I hear a voice that is not my own carrying on from the corner. I know it is Bill laughing about unrelated nonsense. I immediately stop him with “the look” and order him to run laps. Although he runs the laps, I realize neither of us learn anything. He will still fool around, and I will continue to instruct him to run—until I discover a better way to handle him. After some trial and error, I realize that a “one size fits all”coaching style does not work. Each child needs a different type of structured teaching, but the common goal in all the lessons is developing mutual respect and creating a non-hostile environment. Instead of blowing my whistle and screaming, I develop a more friendly relationship with each individual player. The more I become a big brother figure, the more players respect me. Even Bill becomes willing to exert 110%.
Through the diversity of my work and volunteer experiences, I have learned to communicate with a range of people and realize that education is not restricted to the school day. I actually bring my work and volunteer experiences to school where I do not demolish classrooms. Instead, I tear down mental walls that prevent learning from diverse experiences.

Benjamin Nicholas, a graduate of St. Francis Preparatory School, is a freshman at Syracuse University.

The Unlikely Poet

The Unlikely Poet

By Holden Harris

unnamedIf someone ever told me I would become a poet, I would have laughed at that improbable suggestion. However my strict path to create machines and robots detoured a bit when I attended the LEAD Computer Science summer program. My teacher saw something in me I hadn’t recognized. Her head tilted and she raised her eyebrows at the sight of my coding in a programing assignment.

“Is there something wrong?” I asked

“No…”

“Why do you have that look on your face?”

“I’m trying to understand…”

“Is it too complicated? Did I leave out any detail?”

“Calm down. Nothing is wrong with your code. You went about this differently than everyone else. Yours is actually shorter.”

“So did I do the programming wrong?”

“No, I just never thought of writing it this way. This is really good. Good job.”

She not only saw my code; she saw me–that unique me. I so often reflected my creative side through technology. However a moment came when I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. The stresses of junior year burdened me–falling in love with the wrong person, and later, dating someone I didn’t like. I couldn’t see the difference between true and fake friends. On weekends, I isolated myself in my room, avoiding the outside world. Then I found something that re-sparked my energetic self: poetry.

Buddy Wakefield changed my perception of poetry. I watched a video of his performance in a literature class. Wakefield’s poetry inspired me. I wanted to start writing. I felt thrusted into his moment. I felt the weight of his arms, his voice vibrated in my throat, and his smile made my lips crack. I was in his shoes. He inspired me to write.

My journal became my portable memory bank. I stopped carrying my anxieties and put them on paper. I found hope, writing every day. A friend invited me to join the  “Independent Writers Coalition,” a group of kids at school sharing written work. This scared me. Was I even an “independent writer?” I had only been writing for a week. But ultimately, I reasoned that going couldn’t hurt.

In my first session, we read poems and discussed them. It’s astonishing how an activity so simple can be so revealing. I explored my own mind through this process. From that point, my dedication to the club was permanent.

The club’s advisor approached me about a poetry reading. This literally, not figuratively, made my heart stop for a couple seconds. The encouragement of club members gave me the courage to face my fears. I accepted the offer.

On the big day– rocks in my stomach, pain in my heart, and sweat down my back; the seconds ticked, poets read, and it was finally my turn. The walk to the podium was endless; my knees shook so much I sat down before reading. I took a final breath and began:

As you’re walking on the muddy road carrying the weight of your emotions, personal objects, and relationships, you begin to sink into the mud. You’re carrying too much. There is a choice to be made. Drop some objects or be consumed, suffocating in its deathly thickness. Some Things weigh more than others and are harder to let go. In order to escape the dark, cold, unwelcoming, things need to be dropped, even if they are close to your heart. Drop it and you will rise again, withering the pain, but be prepared to do it again when the time comes.

I had feared people would judge me, hate me, and reject me. At this moment, the crowd accepted me for who I was. I smiled hard and long, making my face muscles burn with pain. So this is how it feels to be an “independent writer.” Now I am on the path for a future in technology and poetry. Miss Miller, my technology teacher, was definitely onto something.

Holden Harris, a 2016 graduate of Grace Church School, is a freshman at Dartmouth.

Seeing Reconstructions of Myself

Seeing Reconstructions of Myself

By Georgia Bell

georgia-bellA loud noise startles me. I turn around to the face of Janet, the elderly woman whose home we would be working on.  She yells at an old truck screeching by and it comes to a rickety stop. Janet’s anger resembles my grandmother’s temperament if I touched something that was forbidden.

Fortunately, her lioness voice wasn’t directed at me. She was yelling at Gus, her husband who was driving the truck. The interaction was so comical and heartwarming that I could barely contain myself.  I came to Mexico, Maine for one week to renovate Gus and Janet’s house. The construction project became a mirror into my past, cementing the connections of humanity. I was in an impoverished town of Maine and knew no one but my 20 fellow Parish volunteers.  In this strange place, familiar moments rushed through my mind.

Most people I saw were poor. They were also white, like my mother, but they would never have guessed this considering my brown skin, a shade lighter than my fathers’. I never thought anything of my parents being different races-until one day when I was 8. Joel, a classmate, pointed out that all the other black kids had black moms. “Georgia,” he yelled across the schoolyard, “your mom, she’s white!  I think you’re adopted.” This shook me to the core.  I began to notice people who stared when I was with Mom in the park or the grocery store. For the first time I felt alone, like I didn’t belong.

I have grown beyond that inner unrest of having a biracial family.  However, the stares in Maine carry me back to that time. Here, they are staring at the rare sight of a black person. There were so many opportunities for my mind to wander while working on the house. Break, pull, scrape, breathe repeat. Each movement was a small part of a deliberate pattern, break the drywall, pull down the pieces, scrape the excess from the wood, take a breath and repeat. The attic was a cloud of dust, particles and pieces of wood, drywall, and insulation. I wore a mask to protect myself from the toxins, but I often would opt for a breath of fresh air after finishing a wall. Sticking my head out of the open window, I inhale the fresh, crisp Maine air, hinted with the smell of the meadow behind the home.

I saw the mountains in the distance, the tops speckled with the little bit of snow that survived the hot summer temperatures, the pine trees and finally Janet and her husband. Each time I took a breath, I would witness a different scene in the play of their lives: arguments, laughter, Gus’s kind attempts to help us work and their eventual retreat to sit on their little blue bench which overlooked the meadow.

Yet another flashback: Dad prepares to leave the family for 31 days for a business trip to India. On departure day, his eyes grow with expectation, trust and vulnerability.  I had never seen that look on his face before. I grew anxious. When he finally spoke, a wave of noxiousness crashed over me. “Okay George this is it, game time.  I need you to look after the family when I’m away, your mom, your sister, even the dog. I don’t need anything bad happening when I’m away, because I won’t be able to get to you. I know you can handle this.”

At that moment I realized that I was the successor, but its role carried much more weight than just its title. I had assumed the role of caretaker, leader, and relief giver and once again strove to take on this role while working in Maine.  Gus and Janet opened their home to us and I was moved to do everything in my power to provide them with relief just as I would for my own family.

Georgia Bell, a freshman at Howard University, is a graduate of Milton High School.