An Open Letter to the Class of 2014

I don’t reblog a ton, but I stumbled upon this just after I submitted my early action applications and couldn’t help but reblog it.

“To the Class of 2014:

It’s been real.

Three years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and I have no doubt that the fourth will go by just as quickly. In fact, November is fast approaching, and it will be gone before we know it. For those of us who have November deadlines, time seems to be working at an even faster pace. But don’t worry, you’ll get through it. Thousands of people have gone before us, and they’ve all gone though it. If they can do it, we, the Class of 2014, will surely be able to do it as well.

But while you’re in the midst of this process, a question that you’ve probably been asking yourself is, “What have I actually done in high school?” The college application season is tough, but the added possibility of feeling less than great when evaluating your accomplishments against those of your peers makes it all the more stressful. To that, I say let it be. You are who you are, and who you are is the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

So what if you never started a club during your time in high school? If you were never a star varsity athlete? If you were never captain of your Mock Trial team? If you were never Prom King or Queen? If you were never that popular person on ASB? Be content with who you are. These past four years have been an experiment in learning, in socializing, and discovering who you are. Take what’s been given to you, and go with it.

The next four years after high school will be an experiment as equally challenging as that AP Chem lab where you would always get 1000% for your percent error, as equally challenging as that AP Physics test that you tried so hard to ace, but you just couldn’t do it. But unlike those labs and tests, it will be fun. Embrace what you have, don’t let it be a hindrance to what you can be. Remember this: the sum of your mistakes is not greater than the potential of your future.

We live in a world that’s driven by success. Success in academics, success in athletics, success in career, success in wealth, success in anything, really. It’s hard to not get caught up in this pursuit of success. However, always remember that your success can only be measured by yourself. The choices that you make, the possibilities that you pursue, the results that you obtain, they are all driven by what you, and you yourself, have chosen to do. Do what you want; don’t let others tell you what to do.

Some of us will go down in history, whether as politicians, actors, businessmen, criminals, or just as overall outstanding individuals. Most of us will not. Most of us will strive to be great, to be successful, to be known, but most of us will fall short of that. But once again, be content.

Be content in who you are, but be proud of this amazing group that you come from. You are greater, you are stronger, you are better than you think. You are the Class of 2014.”

via An Open Letter to the Class of 2014.

When I first looked at the Common Application, I thought “Oh no. I am never going to get into college. I have not done ten different activities plus community service and I most certainly do not have numerous academic awards.”  Then as I sat down and looked at my résumé and thought about all the amazing things I have done in my life, it dawned on me.  Colleges need a variety of students to create the “diverse campus” that they all brag about.  Colleges can’t only accept the people who do every activity possible, because though they would have an involved student body, everything would be half done because the people involved are stretching themselves so thin.  They need the athletes, the nerds, the social butterflies, the musicians, the quiet thinkers, the teachers pets, the volunteers, and the categories keep going on and on.  Whatever category I fit in to, a college would want me to add to their community of students.  I realized that I just needed to be proud of what I had accomplished and let that shine through in my application.  I needed to capitalize on what makes me unique.  Once I found the passions and uniqueness that I wanted to highlight, the applications became so much easier.  Good luck Class of 2014, and don’t stress out too much, because it will all work out in the end.  You will find a way to be happy wherever you end up going.

I’m not Going to Prepare you for College

old teacher

“I’m not going to prepare you for college.  Even though you are in an AP Senior English class, we will not be focusing on preparing for college” stated my teacher on the first day of school.  He went on to explain that for far too long, teachers have focused so much on the preparation for college that the students never accomplish anything except prepping for college.  We end up spending too much time planning for a future time instead of living in the present.   He talked about how many of his students have had parents pass away before they graduate high school and even the students he has taught who have died before graduation.  Those people are what motivates him to not teach us in preparation for another time in our lives.   We don’t know when it will be our turn to die, so he wants us accomplishing this year not prepping to accomplish.

His philosophy, originally, made me nervous.  I was afraid about being prepared to pass the AP test and being ready for college classes.  But then I stopped to really think about what he was saying and it all made sense.  I have at least seven friends whose parents have been deathly ill, whether by cancer or other means, just in high school.  The heartbreaking part is that more than half of my friend’s parents died.  I know two students who are battling sickness with their life on the line. I don’t want to be taught how to be prepared for college, I need to be taught about doing important things now and not waiting until I’m older.  Young people can do amazing things.  Just look at the sixteen year old girl who is speaking out about girl’s education in the Middle East even after the Taliban tried to assassinate her a year ago.  Malala Yousafzai, had been speaking out on the issue since she was eleven years old.  Can you imagine the courage it takes to speak with such an influence that the Taliban plots an assassination attempt on her?  And people listened!  No one speaks for that long without a big audience!  Young people can do big things, if they find a need that the are passionate about and decide to do something about it.  Probably the biggest thing that holds them back, is not having enough time.  What a shame to let passionate young people squander the time they would love to devote to their passion in busy work and pointless projects.

There has been a rise of twenty percent projects throughout schools in America.  Basically, the student is able to choose what they will do for their project, knowing that it has to be big enough to be worth twenty percent of their grade.  Most teachers don’t care if the project floats or sinks, as long as the student did everything they could to make it work, troubleshot, and learned lessons from it.

I am a huge fan of the twenty percent project.  It gave me the chance to resume work in the organization that I co-founded called Give a Smile Association.  I never thought I would have time to continue my efforts with it, until I was given the opportunity to do a twenty percent project. My friend and I founded the organization in fifth grade, after I went to see my grandpa in stroke rehab and saw the joy that my family indirectly brought to a woman in the stroke ward who seemed to have no one.  She would come into the visiting room every time we were there, and smile at our interactions with my grandpa.  She had been in the stroke center for longer, but my grandpa was doing better at his rehab.  I hypothesized that feeling loved and cared about leads to quicker recovery, shared my theory with my friend and thus Give a Smile was born.  We would spend the whole time at sleepovers making handmade cards that let patients know someone cared about them.  We went to my school and helped the younger kids make cards.  In all, we probably had delivered 300 cards.  For my twenty percent project, I made a goal of having 1,500 cards made in a month and a half.  I emailed all the teachers at my high school asking for their participation.  I got around 25 replies.  That may seem like a lot, but for a school with 200 teachers, I was a little disappointed.  Still, I persevered.  I ended up collecting just over 3,500 cards from those 25 teachers.  I was in awe of all the cards that had been made.  I was able to touch 3,500 lives for the better with a twenty percent project.

The twenty percent project’s goal wasn’t “preparing me for college”, but it did better than almost any other way I could imagine. It taught me communication, time management, organization, letter writing, and a host of other skills that are necessary not only for college but for life in general.  So long live classes that teach life skills with college readiness on the side.  They are the class of the future, for sure.

Bad Idea Factory

bad idea meme

This week we came up with bad ideas.  Lots of them. We discovered that in the process of innovation, one naturally has to come up with a few bad ideas before they get a great one.  Using this discovery, we decided to convert the classroom into a bad idea factory.  We spent an entire class period coming up with “bad ideas” in hopes of finding a few good ones.  Coming up with bad ideas is so much easier and people are more inclined to speak up about their ideas if there is no pressure for them to be good, as we are looking for bad ideas.

bad idea factory

If I had a dollar for every bad idea I had, I would be a millionaire.

Let it Shine

Remember when you were little, and you would spend hours imagining how your life would be once your “hidden natural talent” was found?  For me, I used to skate with a purpose on the ice rink thinking, “Maybe someone will see how amazing I am at skating and then ask to train me for the Olympics”  Or it was narrating imaginary cooking shows in the shower and thinking, “I can be like Rachel Ray!”

Then you grow up, no one has miraculously found you and your “hidden natural talent” and you end up hearing conversations that go on and on about people wishing they had a natural talent.  They wish that they could sing, be athletic, be smart, dress cute, play music, create gorgeous artwork, or one of the many other well-known and coveted talents.

It makes me sad that people don’t see their talents as those awesome “hidden talents” that every kid dreams about; that they don’t see themselves as good at anything, when it is a fact that everyone has a “hidden” talent if they just knew where to look.  I used to think this way too.  It has been a long road to reach a place where I can accept that my talent isn’t one that would rank in “The Top Ten Best Talents”  or even the top twenty.  My talent of listening and cheering people up with my smile, isn’t one that expecting parents would talk about saying, “I hope my kid smiles all the time, so he can cheer people up.”  I’m not artistic, gifted with hand eye coordination, or a musical genius, but I have seen the effects my smile has on people and have learned that it is my “hidden natural talent” and to use it as often as I can.

I wish people would see the talent they have and embrace it.  Remember the Sunday school song, “This Little Light of Mine”?  If not, maybe this will refresh your memory.

All around me I see people with great talents that they just need to let shine.  If your aren’t using and embracing the talents God gave you, then you are wasting them.  You have a talent for a reason, that reason being to let is shine.  I encourage you this week to FULLY EMBRACE YOUR TALENTS and LET THEM SHINE.  In fact, embrace other people’s talents while you are at it, too.  I’ll even wager a bet to say that if you do, your week will be way better than it would have been if you hadn’t embraced your talents.  So go out and start embracing talents.