Jenn DeLeon provided an engaging and inspirational workshop for Boston Latin Academy juniors entitled, JUMPSTART YOUR COLLEGE ESSAY. Given that the restrictions of the typical five-paragraph essay have silenced our students’ voices, creative, memoir-like writing has become a challenge. In our case, students struggle to find a topic that is compelling and relevant. In addition, knowing how to engage the admissions committee with just the right ingredients can make essay-writing problematic and cumbersome. From the start, Jenn captivated our students with her own writing. She provided handouts and a multi-media presentation that invited students to think about their own experiences, including the small but significant sensory details that make their stories unique. Jenn interacted with students individually, in small groups and in the large (150+ student audience) to stimulate their memories and awaken their imaginations. By the end of the three-hour session, each student departed with a draft that can be revised over the summer and in the fall. Moreover, students were invited to read their essays in open-mike style; and to our surprise, a number of students proudly came to the front to read their very private stories before their classmates. We plan to make this an annual event for our juniors. In the words of one student, ‘The workshop was awesome! Jenn was so amazing! We never write like that...and now we know that we can!’
I know Jennifer’s point about not letting a narrative, large or small, be the final story, if it isn’t the way you want that story to end, resonated with all of us who heard her at Labouré. I think that point was particularly resonant for the many students who were in attendance and who are in our College’s high-stakes, professional programs. When Jennifer told us about how her first piece for Ms. Magazine came about only after much difficulty and great persistence, I am sure our students were nodding their heads in agreement as they pondered meeting thresholds in their professional programs, even while the pressures in their lives raised those thresholds higher and higher.
Thank you so much for that wonderful presentation today. I have heard many positive comments about it already. The prompts you used were perfect and they will work not only for the piece they are currently working on but for the next one which is “teacher lore.” I appreciate your generosity in working with us. My schedule is still uncertain for the fall, but if I am teaching comp, I will use your book. Our theme (first year seminar/comp) is social class, and I think the book will work really well.