Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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

Propelling My Voice

Propelling My Voice

by Jordan White

jordanwhiteAs the youngest in my family by eight years, I was awkward, painfully shy, and tired of being verbally overshadowed. So, at 11, I decided to make my debut at the Christmas dinner table.  

“Did you hear that Lady Gaga might actually be a man?”

Immediately, my brother took over the conversation with a story about a transgender girl from high school, while my uncle followed with a tangent about gender-neutral bathrooms. My inaugural appearance as a provocateur had failed, and my presence once again faded into the background.

My family’s dinner conversations have always been equal parts vulgar and intellectual, with topics like the Bonobo chimpanzee’s bisexual pursuits to adolescent Italian castrati. Outlandish oddities cleverly become family inside jokes. I would spend meals dreaming of my moment to provoke, taking periodic breaks to notice whichever condiment was staining my dad’s shirt. Embarrassed and discouraged by the Gaga debacle, I decided speaking was not to be my mode of self-expression.

Weeks later I became a writer, thanks to our fifth-grade historical fiction project. Some chose to write about the Revolutionary War, while others ventured into the depths of Nazi Germany or Jim Crow. Sometime during the fifth draft of my Civil Rights story, I decided to produce something different. Filing through my mental bank of memories and family conversations, I chose the New York crack/AIDS epidemic of the late eighties.

I altered my story completely. Julius Jones––my proud, stoic, fictional NAACP Chairman––devolved into Julian ‘Juli’ Jameson: a hopeless, staph-infected drug addict with a mayo-stained shirt. Night after night I scanned the depths of Google’s “crack” files, even turning off Image SafeSearch to examine the faces of its victims. I took my desire for identity and applied it to Juli’s journey. As I struggled to find a voice among extroverts, he struggled to find purpose in his dingy Hell’s Kitchen tenement.

The story was a hit among teachers and peers, propelling my confidence as a student. I started writing personal essays; packed with details that I had saved in my mental notebook. In seventh grade I wrote an essay about death, and an influx of long lost memories rushed onto the paper. Rather than seeing sadness in mortality–a hospital, or a coffin, or Benta’s Funeral Home–readers saw my grandmother putting coffee in my sippy cup and telling me she suspected her neighbors were axe murderers. My English teacher suggested I submit the essay to a writing contest, telling me I deserved an audience. I ended up winning, and found my path as a student altered forever. In a school full of inventors and mathletes, writing had become my “thing;” a way to value myself beyond numerical assessment.

Today I’ve established my voice beyond just essays, but my writer’s imagination stays with me almost everywhere. People in my life sometimes become characters that I control. For example, at my uncle’s funeral last winter, my family sat silently in prayer. I made eye contact with the young thurifer shifting nervously behind the priest. I imagined that it was his first day on the job, the way only one pant leg was cuffed — he must have been rushing out of the house. I liked to think his girlfriend made him a good breakfast and said “good luck today, honey” when he left. Luck wasn’t exactly the right thing to wish to someone who was going to a funeral but then again “goodbye” would have been too morbid. I took mental note of the stained-glass windows and saved the detail for future use.

The more I write, the easier I find it to talk– about myself and the world around me, even at the dinner table. When adults mutter about the tribulations of their nine-to-fives, it is not uncommon for my mother to now interrupt, pleading for a breath of life: “Let’s liven things up. Jord, what should we talk about?”

Jordan White, a graduate of Hunter College High School, will begin her freshman year at Wesleyan in a few weeks.

 

Signs to Good Words

Signs to Good Words

by Tess Jacobson  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My School Within a School

by Justin Schnell

I refuse to go to the School of Tears and Tutors–that overwhelmingly large school within my school. I have friends in Tears and Tutors and I do not resent my classmates who are enrolled there. In fact, I estimate that 75 percent of the students at my high school attend Tears and Tutors. However I live by a different ethic, which stresses teamwork and authentic learning. This has inadvertently turned me into a leader in the small and alternative school that exist in the shadows of Tears and Tutors. I  have named that school Teamwork Over Tutors, or TOT.

There are 15 of us in TOT. We are athletes who challenge the norm of jocks because of our strong intellectual cores. The lessons and ethics we have learned through sports guide the ethos of TOT. We do not have tutors for any subject but rely on each other for academic support. For example, I love physics and I will drop anything to help a fellow TOT student in that subject. Alvin loves English and he stays up for hours with me on the phone, helping me refine my ideas before I begin a literary critique.  My TOT classmate and friend, Jason, and I work well together both on the court and in the physics room. Last January, we worked on a project observing the shapes of different planets’ orbits based on the mass of the other planet it was orbiting. This experiment required a lot of outside research. We discovered an application called Orbital that models different sized planets and their orbits based on certain components. I created different examples of planets for us to observe while Jason wrote down his observations and compared each trial. By the end of the project, we had 10-15 examples that supported our thesis. We received an A, but the grade did not matter as much as the efficiency of the team effort. This is the beauty of Teamwork Over Tutors.

While students of TOT rely on each other, students in Tears and Tutors depend on tutors and experts to help lift their grades. They have at least one tutor–if not more–to help pour lessons into their minds. In Tears and Tutors students may forget a major lesson after a test. That’s okay in their school; they are more consumed with grades than learning.

I remember the day I realized my school was really comprised of two different types of students and decided to divide my school into two. It was history class during my junior year. Our teacher returned a test and I saw a classmate who received an 85 begin to sob. She pulled out her cell phone as she left the class and called her mother. She cried into the phone and said she needed a new tutor. Around that time, it seemed that roughly 75 percent of Dalton students have tutors. I wondered why I never had a tutor and why I had never called home crying over an 85. I realized then that I valued learning over grades and teamwork over tutoring.

In the school of Teamwork over Tutors, my role is the glue of the team. I keep us focused on our school within the school. I love taking the leadership role in our group and suggesting who should do what based on everyone’s strengths. Our success comes from my ability to instill a mindset that learning can be accomplished as a team and not just an individual.

Our educational model is actually ingrained in the founding of Dalton and the expressed values of the school. At Dalton’s lower school, TOT values were stressed with the recognition of the progressive education values of Helen Parkhurst, the school’s founder. She was a progressive educational thinker at the turn of the last century who embraced the philosophies of John Dewey. His ideas are congruent with team learning. By middle school, those values were fading at my school among my classmates. Yet, I found the sense of team learning that was common in the lower school classroom on the middle school basketball court. In fact, I became friends with most TOT students through organized sports, which began in 7th grade.

I have been conditioned for TOT through my experiences in athletics. Basketball was once just something fun, but now, it is the force that anchors my academics. In practice, you learn to work as one with your teammates, overcoming difficulties and prospering together. In physics class, your classmates make up your team in doing a group project. When you are doing an experiment, you are relying on your peers to work with you in an efficient way. On the basketball court it is the trust, organization, and effort of all 5 players on the court that leads to success. In the classroom, an organized team can produce the strongest moments of discovery and introduce students to broader perspectives than their own. Through TOT, I have learned that Teamwork is a true asset in any lesson. Whether you are an athlete, musician, or dancer, if you apply the lessons of teamwork from those talents to your academic life, you will receive a true education.

Justin Schnell will be a freshman at the University of Michigan in September and is a 2013 graduate of The Dalton School.

Values in Indecision Over the N-Word

By Chris Drakeford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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