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Dear Admissions Committee,
In my life, the three most important values are hard work, perseverance, and empathy. Hard work is the great equalizer, perseverance is what sets you apart, and empathy is what gains you perspective and meaning. These definitions have changed for me over the years, and while my experience still may be minimal in the world, these values have been prevalent throughout.
Where strangers become family
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
Community is the bond that holds strangers together. I was given the chance to be a part of something I didn’t know I needed, a brotherhood of football players, willing to leave it all on the field.
Lessons from the book
The white buildings of the Fenn school were bright with the light of the morning sun. I stepped off the bus into the cool fall air, the crisp smell of dead leaves wafted through the air. I say hi to my classmates walking past. In the distance, I could see the Teslas, Porsches, and Cadillacs rolling into the pickup circle. I started reading a book recently and I met this kid named Junior. He doesn’t take a bus to school, he walks. He puts his head down trying to draw the least attention from his white, biased classmates. His family's car barely works. How could I possibly like a book that was so different from my own life? Somehow the themes of poverty and fitting in grabbed hold of me and kept me close. The writing style kept me eager to keep reading about these themes, and I learned more and more. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian made me re-examine my perspective and privilege on poverty and what it is like to not fit in.
The hardest thing to escape is poverty. In the book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Junior struggles with poverty throughout the book. Without being poor many of the problems Junior faces would not exist, and he must come to terms with this multiple times. Because poverty creates so many of these challenges, it shapes him in a way (not good or bad) that nothing else can. For Junior, he has always known that he was poor. He can recognize that poverty affects the Native Americans on ‘the rez’ drastically and starts to believe that is all they are as a community “We’re just poor. That’s all we are.”
In this scene, Junior is angry after his dog has just been put down by his father after it got sick. He is recounting all the things he and his family could have been without their poorness and how he tends to let it define him as a person.
“It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Junior thinks to himself that he deserves to be poor because there must be some reason for it, while in reality, it is quite to the contrary, and even though deep down he knows this he punishes himself anyway. As he described it, “it is a circle,” filled with racism, depression, and poverty which takes lots of luck to break. Later in the book, he is able to break this circle by making it off the reservation to go to school but he is still dragged down by the forces around him. Most of these forces are due to poverty, whether it be him not fitting in at the mostly upper-class white school, or his fellow ‘Indians’ on the reservation feeling the need to make him feel like a traitor for wanting a better life. To keep himself from falling back into the circle he must not let his poverty and race define him and let himself be more open to his more unique side. Poverty not only affects lives economically but also invites bullying and harassment.
The need for fitting in is human nature. In the book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alex, Junior, a Native American high schooler, deals with the struggles of being known as an outsider at a white school and a traitor at his home on the reservation.
The standards of being a white upper-class kid are nothing close to what Junior is and it makes it harder for him “feeling worthless and stupid, I just waited”. It becomes even harder for him when he is seen as an outsider in his reservation because he chose to leave to go to Reardan, the whiter school outside of the reservation so that he can get a better education and make it out of poverty. And even though Junior does meet some friends at school and grows to fit in he maintains the struggle of feeling like an outsider or traitor throughout the book.
In this scene, Junior has just arrived at Reardan and is noticing the differences between him and his new classmates. Even though he is just another teenager like them he lacks the nice clothing and lifestyle of these kids. He is beginning to realize he is an outsider here. He is being treated as though he is a zoo animal with everyone staring at him. It makes him question in his mind, whether it was even worth it to come in the first place:
“They stared at me like I was Bigfoot or a UFO. What was I doing at Reardan, whose mascot was an Indian, thereby making me the only other Indian in town? So what was I doing in racist Reardan, where more than half of every graduating class went to college? Nobody in my family had ever gone near a college. Reardan was the opposite of the rez. It was the opposite of my family. It was the opposite of me. I didn’t deserve to be here. I knew it; all of these kids knew it. Indians don’t deserve shit.”
Junior starts to feel as though he isn’t worth as much as these other kids at Reardan and that Indians deserve less than white people. And even though he probably doesn’t believe all these things he has to in some way, because if he doesn’t then there would be no reason to feel out of place. He uses these misconceptions about Indians to mask his true pain and feelings about fitting in and to show what he thinks these white kids believe. This initial guttural feeling of being an outsider makes his school experience a dark one for the first few days. Not belonging causes most of his pain and trouble for him.
Throughout the rest of the book, this feeling of not fitting in causes Junior to suffer in pain inside and out of school. He later can find a place at school, but never completely regains trust and sympathy from his friends and community members on the reservation. To be at peace, Junior has to recognize being an outsider in life and use it as a motivator and not something that stops him. He needs to overcome it just as he overcomes poverty throughout the book.
The best books change your perspective and make you think deeper. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian not only made me think deeper but gave me a new perspective on friendships and poverty especially. Reading the book allowed me to gain a new perspective and made me think deeper about themes that I have only thought about from my lens before. The Native American story is rarely told from the point of view of someone I can relate to if told at all, and it made it much easier to think what it would be like to grow up on a reservation.
When I began to read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian I thought of it as another assignment that I wouldn’t get anything out of, but I ended up thinking deeper about my privilege and perspective and how it is important to get to know other people's stories. It was easier to do this in the book because I could relate to the way it was written and the main character, Junior. He was a teenager just like me and spoke and thought just the same.
Even though our experiences are much different I was able to think more about what it would be like to grow up on a reservation and have to work through all the challenges you face. It proved to me how you should never judge someone based on how they look or where they grew up. Junior has had a completely different life than me in many different ways but at the same time, we still share some things in common, like being a teenage boy. This book also taught me that I should have more empathy for people around me, as even though they seem fine and normal, they could be going through some tough moments.
I may have not liked the idea of reading a new book when I was given the signal that we would do so, but after truly diving in and listening to what the book had to offer, I gained a new perspective on life’s challenges.
How are you? I have been having an amazing time in the 9th grade so far and my classes have been going well. I have been playing lots of football and it is very fun. How has your year been going? Have you been getting good grades? I hope you are doing well and that you like school.
How a bump in the road led me to success
“Every cloud has a silver lining”
Sometimes the best things in life are disguised under the worst. When asked by Fitz about what changed my life I came upon a blank. There were too many things to count. I didn’t know whether it should be big or small, or recent or old, I had no idea. But as I thought about it more, I realized that I had something. The time I succeeded by not making the cut.
Lessons learned in the woods of Maine
The most valuable lessons can’t be taught, they must be experienced
With each bump of the road my anticipation grew, the only thing I could think about was getting back to my bed. I had been bitten by countless bugs at Camp Caribou and my whole body ached, but it was all worth the lessons I learned. With only five minutes till we arrived, I relived those lessons I was grateful for. I had come to the trip thinking it would be another stupid ‘bonding’ experience where I wouldn’t gain much except for missing a couple of days of school. But almost as soon as I got there I was already learning new things. Over the experience, I learned lessons of satisfaction, persistence, and the mental strength I needed to get through and truly conquer the 9th grade trip.
The Art of the Trick-shot. It takes time, precision and luck to achieve the ultimate goal. In this video Brendan and I take our shot at achieving that goal. And after many many attempts:
Changing Your Perspective
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”
As a small kid the world was relegated to my house and the places I visited. I went on trips to many places but everywhere I could remember was always at its core like my home. And yes of course I had listened to stories and books about the strange world beyond, but I never was able to comprehend the vast beauty of what the world really was. I was curious but just not able to imagine what it was like. But then I moved to Boston.
Yesterday, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund faced off in the first leg of the Champions League Quarterfinal. Ahead of the game, it seemed to be a good matchup as both clubs have done well in there respective leagues in recent years. Manchester City have had a great season and are first in the Premier League (ahead by 13 points), while Dortmund sit fifth in the German league. Manchester City have an all round good squad with the likes of Belgian superstar Kevin De Bruyne and the world class manager Pep Guardiola. Dortmund’s team is pretty decent throughout but their main star is Erling Haaland who at the moment seems to be one of the best players in the world. City were the favorites before the game started but many pundits had doubts as they always seem to make it this far and give up.