“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn” – Anne Frank

I try to empower my students by encouraging them to write about what’s on their minds. And I believe I’ve learned more from them, than they’ve learned from me because I listen. Slowly but surely, they trust me enough to share their secrets—even  their most embarrassing or silliest ideas. They test me with their fears and insecurities and tell me what they like or dislike, whether I like it or not. Listening with appreciation, acceptance and understanding has made them fearlessly honest writers and they move on as confident and courageous citizens of tomorrow.  Let’s listen to excerpts from their essays. -Joan Diehl


Isiah Tawil

All my life, I have been trying to find a girlfriend. Believe it or not, it’s harder to find a girlfriend than fighting Godzilla with broken limbs. In sleepaway camp, I had a crush on this girl; I was nine. Her hair was like a fluff of gold, and don’t even get me started about her eyes. And, the thing is I thought she actually liked me! Her name was Carly Dry, which made me realize that her full name would be “Carly Dry-Tawil,” if we ever got married. Another time at Minerals Hotel, I thought I met my future girlfriend. The first time I saw her, I actually froze and started to drool. I was imagining us dancing with fancy clothes and a good DJ and her saying, “I want you to be my boyfriend.” I would have killed for her to say that. In real life, when I walked up to her and asked, “Will you go out with me?” She ran to her dad, who was probably the strongest man alive and screamed, “STRANGER DANGER!” That made me want to sink like the Titanic….

James Green

I tried to be invisible in kindergarten. When I sat down, I hid my cheeks in my shirt. I didn’t want to be seen by anybody. I peeked out with one eye. My words were trapped on my tongue, too afraid to jump off. I couldn’t speak. My mouth was glued shut… so many new people around. Probably, the only words I said were “Hi” and “Ok.” My mouth was behind bars. I was as shy as a turtle in its shell. All my life I’ve been looking for something to crack that shell. I found that tool in the third grade. My teacher Ms. Mac was the tool and with a wave of her wand, the glue loosened a bit and my hand rocketed up….


Patrick Lind

Popularity. It might just be harder than fighting a lion, blind! The relentless urge to be a celebrity just pops up like a jack-in-the-box. In third grade, I managed a chuckle from my friends with my secret weapon—art. The thought crossed my mind of a man-gorilla. His name was “Man Kong.” He was so strong, his veins looked like lightning bolts trying to rip through his boulder-like muscles. He was so hairy, his mop-like strands of hair hung like fur coats from his superman body. This great beast stood like a monumental sculpture in third-grade history. He was such an extraordinary piece of art that some of my friends still remember Man Kong to this day! The remembering of Man Kong continues as well as my dreams of becoming him. Man Kong brought me a step closer on the road to popularity. In fourth grade, I didn’t see the problem with hula-hooping without a hula-hoop. Apparently, it was a threat to my teachers. "Would you like to tell me or show me what you just did?" the teacher scolded. "Show you," I muttered with a grin. I skipped over to the front of the room and waited for everyone to start looking. I took air-hula-hooping to a whole new level. It looked like I had a seizure in the middle of my demonstration! My limbs seemed to turn to jelly and I slithered like snake. I stood admiring the riot I had caused. I had taken three-foot strides across popularity street….


Lucas Jahrnes

Have you ever wondered why girls hang out with girls and boys hang out with boys, but boys and girls never hang out? It’s kinda like there’s an invisible wall of nervousness that makes you turn back and forget about even trying to talk to a girl.  But why can’t boys and girls be friends?  I mean, you would have double the friends. Then maybe, as you grow up, you might begin to chip away at this wall and actually begin to talk seriously with girls. However, after many failed attempts, I’ll just start talking to girl dogs and girl cats for the rest of my life. I made my first attempt in the first grade. I walked into the classroom and there she was. A single piece of runaway hair that refused to stay in her ponytail was twisted around her pinky finger.  The teacher wasn’t there yet, and so I took the leap of faith.  Unfortunately, the only words I was able to spit out were: “Hi, I just wanted to know if….ye-uh-so-um…, bye, see you later.” She looked like one of those people who had one puzzle piece left but it didn’t fit anywhere.  I felt sooo dumb! I heard mumbling from behind me.  I spun around like a ballerina. I saw girls crowding around the one I, unsuccessfully, asked out.  It sounded almost like they were saying, “What the heck, he’s sooo weird!” I felt like a dog trapped in a cage for hours. I manned up but as I was walking back to my seat, she eyed me down with a look of disgust.  The next thing I hear is “What’s his problem?!” I ignored her and decided right then that it would probably be 10 years before I got up the courage to go through that torture again….


Mary Ellenia McManus

Best friends are like jewels and I love jewelry, especially rings. However, I just can’t seem to get one to fit my finger. I can never seem to find the perfect fit. It seems my “Ring of Friendship” is valuable only to me… In those bliss years before kindergarten, I thought I’d never need another friend. My one and only “best” friend was perfect in every way. Her name was Catherine and she had long beautiful hair that looked like gold in summer. Her eyes sparkled like stars and she was tiny. They say, “Good things come in small packages,” but, like all good things, “Kit Kat” faded away...  Next came Erin. We passed notes and enjoyed millions of playdates when we were seven. Her shoulder-length brown hair bobbed when she walked. Her eyes were brown and had the same seriousness mine had, eyes that only twinkled when they were overjoyed. We were awesome friends for a while, but then our lives led us different ways, different, growing personalities, different tastes, and different friends. So, we went from best friends to good friends. So many times I’d thought I’d struck gold, but every time it turned out to be Fool’s Gold. For me, finding a best friend is like looking for a diamond in a world of dirt; it’s practically impossible….


Jillian Gleason

As mom and dad headed out the door, I was nervous to be alone. My stomach dropped like an anchor from a boat. It was one of the coldest nights of the year; the wind whistled through the windows like an old tea kettle. I sat in the corner of my room taking comfort in familiar things—I hated being alone. I called my dog for comfort.  He scurried up the stairs like a mouse chasing a piece of cheese. He greeted me with kisses. I knew I had to come up with a way to deal with the situation. My shaky hand picked up the phone and I dialed my grandmother’s number.  As always, the sound of her voice put me at ease. Before long I heard my parent’s car pull into the driveway.  I’ve always been afraid to be home alone, but I survived that night, and began to conquer my fear….


Calvin Zwerling

Dunking like Michael Jordan is like flying into space with a skateboard. Maybe it’s his Air Jordans that make him fly or it’s in his DNA, but nobody can play like him and I’ve been trying for years…This year I accomplished something that I’ve never done before. I shot three “threes” in a game and made all of them. We had to win to go to the championship, so we played our hearts out. The other team was on our tail; whenever we scored, they scored. I got the ball at the wing and fired it like a cannonball into the enemy base…Finally, we won, and we were happy as kids on Christmas morning. People were saying, “Hey Calvin Jordan!” and I blushed red as an apple. I felt like the king of the beehive.