Many hands make light work.
We'll put that old saying to the test this school year, when 13 teenage columnists, representing area high schools, begin writing weekly columns for the Post Bulletin.
This program dates back to the 1980s. Dozens and dozens of writers have been part of it, but never more at one time, I don't think, than the number who will contribute this year. They were selected through an application process conducted over the summer months. Based on their writing samples and the way they presented themselves in a recent introductory meeting, I think we're in store for another year of top-notch writing.
Let's introduce these new writers in the order that they're scheduled to appear.
Ayooluwa Odeyinka, a senior at John Marshall High School, has already had her work published in the Post Bulletin. She wrote in April about the pros and cons of attending school online. "Going from seven hours a day in person to seven hours a day on a screen was a big switch," she wrote. "I’ve learned how to take control of my education and become a more independent learner, while also learning that it is OK to ask for help." Welcome to the group, Ayooluwa! Her first column will appear Oct. 5.
Joining her is Ava Gustafson. Ava is — get used to hearing this — a senior at Mayo High School. She's been an avid reader of the teen columns in previous years and said she can't wait to give it a try. In her application, she included a gripping first-person narrative told from the perspective of her uncle serving in Iraq. Ava's first column also will appear Oct. 5.
Then come Lydie Lake and Anna Brennan. Lydie is a senior and Anna is a sophomore, both at Byron High School. Lydie, in her application, included an essay of hers that got her a spot as a wreath-layer at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In that essay, she wrote, "Existing in the United States teaches you ambition so you can take your life in any direction. Whether it be a politician, artist, or scientist, there are no laws that can stop you from chasing your ambition and finding your place in this country."
Anna, meanwhile, was referred to the columnist opportunity by Sen. Carla Nelson. She said in her application, "My favorite assignments never fail to be opinionated essays, debates, presentations, and speeches. In other words, I find most things in life that scare away the average teenager to be the most enjoyable." Plus, she plays five instruments, including the accordion. Love that.
Gauri Sood might be a familiar name to you. That might be because her father, Dr. Amit Sood, is a Post Bulletin columnist. And it might be because Gauri, to her own credit, has been in the news for her efforts developing community gardens, and for her role on a team in a national competition over their knowledge of global affairs. She was the first applicant I had for this year's group. She's a senior at Mayo HS.
Linnea Lindell, a Mayo senior, was inspired by a columnist from this past year, Adam McPhail, to apply. She won first place in an essay-writing competition about a volunteering project, but says she's not had an opportunity — not yet, at least — to write for an audience on a topic of her choosing. All that, and she is brave enough to admit to a roomful of opposition that she believes a taco IS a sandwich. That's guts. Welcome, Linnea!
A past columnist might have had a bit of influence on Nick Crockett, too. Another Nick — Nick Mezacapa — just concluded his summer writing in the Post Bulletin's first-ever Community Columnist program. Nick is Nick's grandpa. Confused? Not Nick. (The younger one, I mean.) He's a member of Mayo's debate team, has a strong interest in environmental causes, and turns to a favorite Rudyard Kipling poem for motivation. Every deadline writer must learn, as Kipling writes, to "fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds' worth of distance run." Sometimes a minute is all you have.
William Laudon is yet another in a bumper crop of Mayo High School students, only he's a junior, not a senior. Two older sisters, Sarah and Mary, were columnists in their time. Now it's his turn. "My friends and family know me as a communicative person who always has a story to share," he wrote in his application. "Whether it be on stage during a musical, competing in speech and debate, or even in my personal writing, I’m a strong believer in the art of storytelling, the connections it fosters, and the lessons it teaches." Amen, Will, and welcome.
Chloe Weingarten is, like Will, a Mayo junior. Unlike probably any other columnist, past or present, Chloe identifies as an amateur entomologist. She's presented abstracts on entomology, the study of insects, at two national scientific meetings, and volunteered in a University of Minnesota study of apple orchard insect pests. One of her writing samples was about her preoccupation with milkweed plants, more precisely, the ones with specks on the undersides of the leaves. Those are monarch eggs — she raises them. Can't wait to learn from Chloe's writing this year.
In Sophie Kaufmann's application, she did something I haven't seen many times before. She offered an explanation for why she chose each of her writing samples. One, she said, "will suggest my ability to think critically," while another "may prove that I can write a decent argument." With that kind of rational thinking, of course she'll offer more than decent arguments. Look for Sophie to appear for the first time in the first week of November.
Like Nick Crockett, Xavier Laack, or Xavi, has a grandparent who's done some writing for the PB. His grandmother, Helen, still shows up in my inbox from time to time with questions or comments on stories. Inspired by that example, Xavi wants to write, too, and from his application, it seems he will have plenty to say. He's well-traveled, having already been to Japan, Syria and Tanzania in his 16 years, and he reads two newspapers every day. Welcome, Xavi!
I've not had many columnists apply for a second tour of duty, but Radhika Damle only had a short run last year, so she's back for another round. She wrote seven columns last year, including one about her family's pandemic adaptation of its Diwali celebration and one about her lucky test jacket. "There are several untapped topics that I plan on writing about this year, such as my senior year, the college admissions process, hobbies, trailblazing women, and computer literacy," she wrote in her application.
The last writer I have to introduce is Amelia Vrieze. She is another one of our Mayo HS seniors, and she says she hopes to be a published author someday. That day is coming soon enough — Nov. 16 is when her first column will appear. She wrote in her application: "I often write reflective pieces on elements of my own life, and I enjoy collecting the stories of others. I would appreciate this opportunity as a chance to grow my skills as a writer." That's what it's all about. Welcome, Amelia, and all 13 of these new columnists.
For fun and to introduce these new columnists, I had them fill out a short questionnaire describing themselves. Here are their responses:
School: John Marshall High School
Who and what I'll be in 10 years: A carefree person hopefully living on the east coast in a major city! I'm not exactly sure what I want to do as a job, but maybe something with psychology or computer science. I also really love writing, so if all my interests could blend into one job, that would be great.
Who and where I was 10 years ago: A 7-year-old in 2nd grade (I think) who read an unhealthy amount of Geronimo Stilton and Wendy Mass. I made a goal to read every single Geronimo Stilton book that year and while I don't think I got them all, I did come very close.
Last Non-Required Book I Read: "The Chai Factor" by Farah Heron
Best Movie of My Life So Far: "Moonlight" (Directed by Barry Jenkins)
If I Were a King or Queen I'd Outlaw: Sourdough bread. It's flavorless and hard to chew. Every time I have sourdough, I end up disassembling the sandwich and just eating whatever is inside. I also don't think it would be a big deal if I got rid of it since there are so many other types of bread to choose from.
How I get around: I like walking and biking, but I drive most places with my Honda CRV (I named it Cesar)!
My hero is Frank Ocean because he's a lyrical genius who puts an insane amount of attention to detail in both the production and timing of all his pieces. My favorite song by him is "Futura Free," but mainly for the dialogue at the end.
Rock, Paper, Scissors: Paper since most people I've played with tend to start with rock. My go-to pattern is paper, rock, scissors.
Words I live by: "You have to know that as long as you love who you are -- your morals, your values, that type of stuff -- you're OK" --Nicki Minaj
Why I Wanted to be a Post Bulletin Teen Columnist: Writing and all things English-related is something I've enjoyed since a young age. At first, I started writing just to get my thoughts down, but now I use it as a way to build my vocabulary and express what I'm feeling. I also like experimenting with different writing styles that I've seen authors in the books I read use. I really enjoy writing and I'm excited to write for an actual audience now!
School: Mayo High School
Who and where I’ll be in 10 years: In 10 years, my plan is to be in the process of completing my dual MD/PhD program at a school on the East Coast. I will have hopefully been out of the country by that point in my life, and I like to entertain the idea of owning a dog or two in a small apartment.
Who and where I was 10 years ago: 10 years ago, I was in 2nd grade and obsessed with mountain lions and writing short stories on an old typewriter given to me by my grandmother.
Last non-required book I read: "Murder on the Orient Express" by Agatha Christie.
Best movie of my life so far: "Miracle."
If I were a queen, I would outlaw: My least favorite words: “bellybutton” and “bikini.”
How I get around: My 2008 Toyota RAV4 named “Pedro" after the phenomenal individual at the dealership who sold the car to me and my family.
My hero is Bruce Boudreau because of his motivational speeches. Feel free to check out his speech to the Washington Capitals hockey team back in 2010 on YouTube.
Rock, paper, scissors - we all know which is really boss and it’s obviously: Paper.
Words I live by: “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up” -- Nelson Mandela.
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist: I have always loved writing and improving my writing skills. I believe that writing for a newspaper with a sizable audience will give me the opportunity to share my opinion on things I love, and I will hopefully sharpen my writing and editing skills along the way.
Age: 17 years old
School: Byron High School, full-time PSEO at Rochester Community and Technical College
Who and where I’ll be in 10 years: In 10 years, I hope to be either writing or reporting somewhere internationally. As much as the idea may scare my parents, becoming a 3rd world journalist fascinates me. Hopefully, by then, I'll also have visited numerous places in the world. Besides that, I'd like to have a couple of dogs too!
Who and where I was 10 years ago: 10 years ago, I was a 7-year-old moving into a new town! The move was just from Rochester to Byron, so nothing too drastic for my younger self. I was making friends with my new neighbors and constantly played outside with them.
Last non-required book I read: "The Education of an Idealist" by Samantha Power
Best movie of my life so far: "Mamma Mia!"
If I were king/queen, I’d outlaw: Plastic bags, 100%. They're so bad for the environment. You can find cheap reusable bags easily. Some reusable bags can be really cute too, so why not?
How I get around: My (my parents') Jeep Renegade takes me everywhere. Her name is Roxanne, by the way.
My heroes are definitely my parents because they have continuously shown me endless support throughout all of my endeavors. They both encourage me to do what I want to do and I think it's really special to have that support system and those people who you know are always cheering you on.
Rock, paper, scissors -- we all know which is really boss and it’s obviously: Paper.
Words I live by: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." -Eleanor Roosevelt
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist: I actually heard about this opportunity through my grandma and I figured right away that it would be a great way to introduce me to the world of journalism and communication. After I graduate high school, I am looking to study journalism at an east coast school. I think this opportunity will give me the tools I need to explore journalism further and find a possible career path in it.
School: Byron High School
Who and where I’ll be in 10 years: In 10 years I will be 25. I hope that by that point in my life I am finishing up law school somewhere in a city, partaking in an internship at a large firm, and looking for a place to live in the country with a golden retriever named George. I also hope to have started a successful blog platform where I write and share videos about politics and history as a small side hobby.
Who and where I was 10 years ago: 2011 was a glorious time. My number one worry was how I was going to be an artist, popstar singer, dancer, and figure skater all at the same time when I grew up. I started kindergarten at Byron, rode a bike without training wheels, and I was spending lots of time with my new baby sister. Life was simpler, but I sure made it exciting by dancing and singing whenever I could. There was no shortage of attitude or glitter at my house!
Last non-required book I read: "Since 1945: Politics and Diplomacy in Recent American History" by Robert A. Divine, published in 1975.
Best movie of my life so far: "Lincoln" (2012 Steven Spielberg)
If I were king/queen, I’d outlaw: Teens using social media in general. It’s always a buzzkill.
How I get around: My parental chauffeurs. (For only 4 more months!)
My hero is Abraham Lincoln because he is an extremely important and recognizable figure in our nation’s history. All of the stories about the person he really was and what all he went through will never cease to inspire me. I love to read about him and teach others about what all he accomplished. His story goes much deeper than freeing slaves and governing during the Civil War, and his approach to the presidency will forever shape my idea of what it means to communicate and be a true and effective leader.
Rock, paper, scissors -- we all know which is really boss and it’s obviously: Well, in the context of the game they are all equal as each gets the same opportunity to dominate or be dominated. Metaphorically speaking, however, it’s obviously paper. It can be argued that rock and scissors really only have one use, whereas paper comes with endless possibilities.
Words I live by: “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” -- Abraham Lincoln
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist: For as long as I have been able to talk, the most important thing to me has always been kindly speaking my mind. I truly believe that if you really believe in something and have a passion for helping others to gain their own educated perspective and opinions, it does no good to stay quiet. I also have a love for making connections and using my understanding of our past to help form an understanding of current events and our future. I love to read and write as well, so being a teen columnist is a spectacular opportunity for me to put many of my talents together and finally have a platform to reach more people and peers. I am looking forward to sharing this journey with all of you.
School: Mayo High School
Who and where I'll be in 10 years: Hopefully working in a Global Education position somewhere on the East Coast while living in a colorful house with a goldendoodle puppy.
Who and where I was 10 years ago: A seven year old obsessed with coloring books, writing heavily misspelled short stories, and braiding pink strips into her hair.
Last non-required book I read: "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Best movie of my life so far: "3 Idiots" (a Bollywood movie).
If I were king/queen, I would outlaw: Jaywalking laws. It is a nuisance to not allow people to cross the street at random places for convenience, and these laws are also not enforced very well.
How I get around: My favorite car in the whole world (a white Acura RDX). Also very occasionally by bike or foot.
My hero is Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's Prime Minister. She is a kind, confident, successful, and well-liked leader. She has led New Zealand to success throughout the pandemic and other struggles, and even managed starting a family while in office.
Rock, paper, scissors - we all know which is really boss and it's obviously: Paper, because it's underrated, and beats rock (which feels like an underdog's win).
Words I live by: work hard, play hard.
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist: I find writing to be a creative respite, and the most important skill that someone can have. Every class, activity, and profession requires strong writing skills. I love the innovativeness and endless possibilities that writing offers, and I am even more excited to have a circle of people who share this love through the Post Bulletin teen columnist opportunity.
Age: I recently turned 18!
School: Mayo High School
Who and where I’ll be in 10 years: Possibly pursuing a career in medicine, but I recognize that college will be an eye-opening experience
Who and where I was 10 years ago: I was in 2nd grade at RCLS. My favorite books were the Harry Potter series.
Last non-required book I read: "Wuthering Heights"
Best movie of my life so far: "Pretty in Pink"
If I were king/queen, I’d outlaw: Mosquitoes!
How I get around: I normally use a family car, but I love walking or biking if I have the chance.
My hero is my grandmother because she is the type of person I hope to become. She has done and been so many things, including choreographer, author, civic leader, fundraiser, professor, board member, wife, and mother. Beyond all this is her wonderful soul. She is my Nana, after all.
Rock, paper, scissors -- we all know which is really boss and it’s obviously: Paper! That's why I'm a teen columnist.
Words I live by: Think before you speak.
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist: I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist to apply and expand my skills as a writer and have the chance to share my thoughts on topical issues. I look forward to being involved in formal journalism and the critical role it plays in the American experience.
School: Mayo High School
Who and where I’ll be in 10 years: An environmental engineer/scientist, hopefully living somewhere coastal.
Who and where I was 10 years ago: A young, energetic, Lego-obsessed boy.
Last non-required book I read: "The Atlantis Gene"
Best movie of my life so far: "Avatar"
If I were king/queen, I’d outlaw: Smoking
How I get around: Car/bike
My hero is my Grandpa because he is always, and I mean always, positive.
Rock, paper, scissors -- we all know which is really boss and it’s obviously: Scissors
Words I live by: Just do it
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen: I really wanted to grow this year, and this seemed like a great way to do that and challenge myself.
Age: 16 (17 in November)
Grade: Incoming junior
School: Mayo High School
Who and Where I'll be in 10 years: Big question...Hopefully I'll be done with college (and maybe graduate school?)...Definitely starting to be an adult, living on my own, paying taxes. I'm not really sure what I want to do when I'm older. Maybe an acting would be cool!
Who and Where I was 10 years ago: I was in Byron Elementary School, just starting 1st grade! Crazy to think how fast it all goes :(
Last non-required book I read: "Pleasure Activism." It's a crazy book about sensuality, sexuality, and a bunch of other taboo things. It really requires you to step outside of your comfort zone, but I loved how eye-opening it was.
Best movie of my life so far: Also a really big question. I don't consider myself to be a big movie guy, and I always watch my "comfort films," but I would say my favorite movie would have to be Scorsese's "Taxi Driver." Crazy movie in terms of plot, and I think the visuals of 1970s New York are stunning.
If I were king, I'd outlaw: Zoos. I really think that some zoos/rehabilitation centers are really good, but others are really terrible...of course I think there's so many exceptions that one rule.
How I get around: My car, Gwenivere. It's a Mazda CX-3, it's a low rider, and it's name comes from the Pixar movie, "Onward", which is a really fantastic movie.
My hero is Spider-Man because he's my favorite superhero in general. I think his villains, like Dr. Ock, and the whole persona of a young adult superhero slinging around skyscrapers is super cool.
Rock, paper, scissors: Rock for sure. I've always seen paper as a weak move and it shows vulnerability; scissors are OK I guess...but I ultimately like rock because it feels like a power move.
Words I live by: "Everyone is given a little spark of madness, you musn't lose it" - Robin Williams. One of my favorite actors, and as a performer myself, I find those words really inspiring.
Why I wanted to be a PB teen columnist: I love reading the news (especially local journalism) and after seeing my family's experience with the program, I thought that it would be an awesome experience for myself. I'm really excited to get started.
School: Mayo High School
In 10 years I will be finishing a postgraduate degree in either medicine or law.
10 years ago I was starting first grade at Bamber Valley and was mostly interested in reading and being outside.
I read lots of books; the last one I read was "The Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrsion.
The best movie of my life so far is "Into the Heights." A close second is "Talladega Nights."
If I were the Queen I would outlaw plastic.
I get around by car.
My hero is Marie Curie because she was such an influential scientist with the barriers of being a woman.
Early to bed and early to rise makes person healthy, wealthy, and wise.
I want to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist because I want to write about issues in the teen community of Rochester.
Mayo High School.
In ten years, I’ll hopefully have a job or be furthering my education in grad school.
Ten years ago I was a seven-year-old doing typical 7-year-old things such as climbing trees and drawing in coloring books.
"A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens.
I don’t have one all time favorite movie ever, but my favorite TV show is "Psych."
I would have to outlaw drivers who don’t use their turn signal. Turn signals are there for a reason!
I drive a red Honda CR-V.
One of my heroes is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because I appreciate her principled advocacy leadership in matters of gender equality. Another personal hero of mine is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who bravely stood up against the Nazis and lost his life due to it.
My grandpa always says, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” I aspire to live by that.
I have always had a passion for writing, so I was excited to hear that there was an opportunity to put my writing skills into practice. More importantly, I believe it is important that opinions of youths are shared with the community of Rochester.
(most people call me Xavi)
Who and where I’ll be in 10 years: I will likely be finishing medical school and looking for a job.
Who and where I was 10 years ago: I was a super shy six year old scared for the first year of “real school,” kindergarten.
Last non-required book I read: I am working on "Originals" by Adam Grant and the last book I finished was "The Old Man and the Sea."
Best movie of my life so far: I get asked this a lot and I really don’t know what to say. I like watching documentaries, and a great one is "The Serengeti Rules." I also like movies that are referenced in pop culture a lot like "The Princess Bride" and "Star Wars."
If I were king/queen, I’d outlaw: chewing with your mouth open and consistently being late.
How I get around: I mainly drive a Subaru Impreza, but before I could drive I biked and got rides.
My hero is Barack Obama because I think he is a great example of a selfless person who did, and is doing, great things for many people and was able to turn the other cheek when he was attacked.
Rock, paper, scissors -- we all know which is really boss and it’s obviously: rock.
Words I live by: Life is like a box of chocolates. It doesn’t last long if you're fat.
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist: I wanted to be a teen columnist for a long time. I remember my grandma writing pieces for the PB when I was little and I thought that was so cool. That started my fascination, and then seeing older students that I am friends with do it also made me want to write for the PB.
School: John Marshall High School (Go Rockets!)
Who and where I’ll be in 10 years: Shattering the glass ceiling in a STEM field and inspiring young girls to do the same.
Who and where I was 10 years ago: Embracing my inner entrepreneurial self by starting a Play-Doh bakery with my classmates
Last non-required book I read: "The Confidence Code."
Best movie of my life so far: "Inception."
If I were king/queen, I’d outlaw: Political ads closer towards election season and year long construction
How I get around: My Dad's 1995 Toyota Corolla affectionately called "Peanut"
My hero is my older sister because she is my role model, my mentor, and my best friend. She has overcome many obstacles to follow her dream of becoming a doctor. She is a genuinely good person and always makes time to support me.
Rock, paper, scissors -- we all know which is really boss and it’s obviously: A good player never tells :)
Words I live by: "A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting"- Doctor Who
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist: Being a teen columnist last year was a rewarding experience because I was able to have a positive impact on my community. I hope to continue doing this and also share some insight into a teenager's perspective on life.
School: Mayo High School
Who and where I’ll be in 10 years: I’d be willing to spend my whole life in Minnesota, but maybe I’ll have a novel published by then.
Who and where I was 10 years ago: Probably playing polar bears on the elementary school playground.
Last non-required book I read: "A Tale of Two Cities." Actually, that was the second to last. The last was "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg (Tinkerbell)."
Best movie of my life so far: "Little Women."
If I were king/queen, I’d outlaw: Fossil fuels
How I get around: Red Toyota Corolla
My hero is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a pretty cool lady and I probably couldn’t reach my dreams without her contributions to women’s rights.
Rock, paper, scissors -- we all know which is really boss and it’s obviously: Scissors
Words I live by: “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.” -Peter Pan
Why I wanted to be a Post Bulletin teen columnist: I’ve always had an interest in writing and storytelling, and I hope to use this experience to improve both!