Posts Tagged ‘University of Pennsylvania’


  • “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

Winning Without a Label

Winning Without a Label

by Sydney Webber

11082549_10205536740953368_2880924316986633246_nI remember Fridays when I walked home from school with Eric, rushed to change clothes and headed across the street to his house to play.  At dusk,  I’d head home to shower and put on my black dress, stockings, and flats and return to Eric’s for Shabbat dinner.  I still remember the distinctive taste of Challah and tons of food that his grandmother cooked.   I never felt out of place as the only person in the room who didn’t understand the Hebrew prayers.  Then there were my Tuesdays, reserved for the playground with Uzuri and Hector, my friends from Nigeria and Colombia.  I always found time every week to hang with Sam, my Venezuelan best friend.

It all changed when I turned eight. My family left Maplewood, a town known for its diversity, for Morristown, where we were the only black family on the block.  On the surface, Morristown lacked diversity, especially considering my overwhelmingly white neighborhood that matched the makeup of the honors courses that I took in high school.  I spent years looking for a label to fit in besides “black girl.”  I would learn the irrelevance of labels in the spring of junior year when my name found it’s way to a ballot that read Bill, Phillip, Joe, and Sydney–the typical “hot guy”, the “jock,” the “class clown,” and me.  There was not a label for me, which, at first, made me think I must be crazy for running for class president.  The girls would vote for Mike, the basketball team for Drew, and Matt’s speech would make everyone laugh. Didn’t I need a label to win?

In Maplewood, there were not any two people who seemed alike so I never thought twice about being myself.  It wasn’t until I was placed in an environment where the white majority was dominant and seemed to be monolithic that I experienced a discomfort with myself.  I tried desperately to be like my friends.  I straightened my hair everyday to get rid of my natural afro I wore as a child.  I listened to the bands that my friends loved even though I hated the music. I wore Abercrombie, even though the clothes weren’t meant for my Beyonce-like curves.  I became secretly thankful for my light skin tone because it made me look closer to the majority than those with dark skin. Throughout middle school, I felt ashamed to be black because it differentiated me from everyone around me.

My family’s Kwanzaa celebration launched my journey to self acceptance.  When I was thirteen my mom invited our white neighbors to the celebration.  At first I was embarrassed to share this part of me with my friends.  I thought they might see me differently if they witnessed this hidden side of me. I feared it would accentuate the obvious differences I tried to escape.  At that moment I thought back to Maplewood and remembered its okay to be racially different. The girl who now believes Kwanzaa is for everyone became one who realizes the school is not just made up of labels.

I changed my definition of diversity beyond race and ethnicity. I saw that white people should not be defined by being white just as I should not be defined by a label of race. I also saw the superficial constructs of the labels my opponents wore and embraced.  I discovered I was not the underdog in the election and that lacking a label was my asset. I wanted to represent the majority of our grade that didn’t have a “title,” like those who do not like the lunchroom social world, those unafraid of being smart or being called a nerd, and those who value eclectic interests.  I had started to see my classmates and myself beyond superficial labels. Moreover I won the election because my classmates were able to see me beyond any labels while my opponents epitomized typical high school classifications.

Sydney Webber, a graduate of Morristown High School, is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.


Why U-Penn?

by Alec Harris

Considering both the specific undergraduate school or program to which you are applying and the broader University of Pennsylvania community, what academic, research, and/or extracurricular paths do you see yourself exploring at Penn?

You have heard of cancer and AIDS, but what about poor file management? Every year 96,000 Americans die due to poor file management of medical records. With two business partners, I decided to dive into this critical national public health problem. My two partners, high school students like me, address this problem by creating a company that unites hospitals through a “Cloud System.” Doctors would be able to enter the “Cloud” and open up their patients’ documents. By utilizing their patients’ health information, doctors could safely determine the right medications to prescribe. We meet weekly to work on the product and search for investors.

I look forward to marrying my passion for problem solving and entrepreneurship with the strong liberal arts foundation at the University of Pennsylvania. I have purposefully chosen to major in economics in the College of Arts and Science because it will provide the intellectual underpinning to complement my diverse interests as an aspiring entrepreneur. I also appreciate the opportunity to start clubs at the University of Pennsylvania, as I would start an organization that focuses on entrepreneurship for liberal arts majors.

I owe my initial curiosity to take on problems, like poor file management, to my participation in LEAD’s Engineering and business programs over the past two summers at Villanova and Duke. The LEAD teachers challenged me with intriguing and difficult problems to assess. Through the lectures and assignments, I gained a passion for finding the solutions to many problems that we discussed. For example, we were told to find the cause of a specific short-circuited car. After many hours of research, I found the transistors, under the hood, worked as gates by controlling the amount of electricity used. When the transistor breaks down, a car can be short-circuited. We studied how such a complex network operates and evaluated new ideas for the purpose of efficiency, which inspired my thirst for more answers.

Student life at Penn would offer the opportunity to explore my other interests in social problems. In my days of playing baseball in the Harlem Little League, I met many kids who had a mutual love for baseball, but I was keenly aware of our different social situations. Many of them ended up in gangs and jail. They were sons of alcoholic fathers or grew up around gang violence. The decisions they made were inevitably a reflection of what surrounded them.  I want to join students organizations that tackle those kinds of problems.

Whether it’s the book Freakonomics or my observations of my friends, I always find myself analyzing the different angles in search for hidden answers to problems, whether they are math or engineering or social problems like those that can impair the lives of inner city teenagers. At U-Penn, I would enter a world that would give me the artillery to continue the search for solutions to problems that had not been answered.

Alec Harris is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2012 graduate of Pomfret.

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.

Introducing Yourself to the University of Pennsylvania

by Morgan Pilgrim

Introduce yourself to Penn. Our aim is to better understand how your identity, talents, and background guide your day-to-day experiences.

I sit on the school bus and watch two worlds blend as the scenery slowly changes.  The first commercial strip is Grand Avenue where I see check cashing stores, Crown Fried Chickens, and other assorted fast food restaurants. As I get closer to my school, the air seems lighter as neon signs disappear and traffic dwindles. By the time I reach Brookville Road, lined with tall trees hiding sprawling private estates, I see the sign to my school- Long Island Lutheran. The starting and ending points may be very different but they are both my home. The scenes of the bus ride reveal the variety of my American experience. Traveling between the two homes has broadened my perspectives and gives me the understanding of different cultures, which ultimately helped create the versatile person I am today.

Morgan Pligrim is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2012 graduate of Long Island Lutheran High School.

Angel the Outsider

by Morgan Pilgrim

In the mass of brown-skinned and dark-haired children, a small speckle of bleach blond hair and vanilla latte complexion caught my eye. This little speckle was Angel, an outcast in the Nicaraguan village of Chacraseca.  While the other children played soccer, Angel sat by himself and watched. In that moment, I saw my past as an outsider and desperately wanted to help him.

I was, I still am, and I will always be Morgan: assertive, curious, outspoken, energetic.  These qualities shape me. Yet they often kept me on the outside, just as Angel’s ethnicity did him.  We were ostracized for reasons that made us…us.

My “Angel” moment came in seventh grade when I jumped from public to private school. My peers could not withstand my outspoken energy. My bright, talkative personality made it easy for me to make friends, but keeping them was difficult.  I have never been one to conform to the “norm” and many tweens do not like a blunt brainiac who says the first thing that comes to her mind. Thus, my spunky personality caused some problems in my social life. For example,  when my “friends” rushed to ostracize a peer, my lone voice defended the victim. “Who votes to kick Casey off the island?”  Every hand at the lunch table shot up except for mine. All eyes darted in my direction; I stated my case without hesitation.  “Casey didn’t do anything bad.  She just has different interests. Y’all have no right telling someone they can’t sit some place.  This is unfair. Just stop.”  My defense shocked everyone including Casey, who looked bewildered. I paid for my actions when I was the next one voted off the “island.”

What could I do?  I needed social interaction but suppressing the ball of fire that bounces inside of me would force me to explode.  I begged my mom for help, but she could only dry my tears and tell me to figure it out on my own.

I learned to channel my fire in a positive direction. Today, I frequently engage in debates with friends on technology, politics, and pop culture. During the 2008 presidential campaign, I debated the Iraq War with Eric, a staunch conservative. The debate started reserved and polite, but soon our voices escalated. When the bell rang, our classmates could not leave their seats; everyone wanted to continue watching the debate. The spectators were shocked when Eric and I stopped, gathered our things and walked out of the room together as friends, talking about our plans for the upcoming weekend.  Despite our differences, Eric and I have created a friendship based on our shared assertiveness.

That first time I met Angel, I looked into his eyes, and said one of the few Spanish words I knew: “Hola!” Immediately, a small spark ignited inside of him.  I took Angel’s hand and ran over to the soccer game.  He was apprehensive to join in but I reassured him by mouthing “Esta Bien.”  Angel’s face lit up; he ran toward the ball, jumping and screaming.  I saw a glimmer of confidence in him. Or maybe it was just the excitement of the soccer game.

I may never see Angel again, but I hope our small interaction helped him gain more courage to embrace his differences. It will be a struggle, but he must trudge through it and remain true to himself as I did. People may have seen me as an overly confident individual, but fortunately I did not let those views suppress this fire in my belly. I have found the place and the people that accept me for me. I hope that one day Angel finds this comfort.

Morgan Pilgrim is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and a 2012 graduate of Long Island Lutheran High School.

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.