The other day I read a student’s personal statement prepared as part of her college application. The student hadn’t sent it to me, though. One of the people behind her essay did, namely one of her teachers.
It’s been a while since I prepared a similar essay. But I remember writing one for seminary, for grad school, and for college. I wrote two for college because I transferred from Hampton University to attend the University of Illinois. One day I’ll tell you about my entry into U of I. Or maybe not.
Still, those statements and their accompanying applications pulled a lot from me. They made me think about the people who mentored me, those folks who helped me learn to read and write, who taught me how to reflect upon my experiences. I can’t think about writing an essay for anybody without thinking about Andrew H. Moore, Jr. who wrote an early recommendation for me when I was applying for a college scholarship. He used the word belie and I had never used that word before. The word makes me smile and probably laugh when I think about him speaking of my character as a seventeen-year old.
The second person I almost always think about when I write an essay about myself, a bio, or something similar is Ms. Henning. I don’t know her full name. She’s a teacher, Ms. Henning. She was the assistant principal at Simeon and she read and revised an essay I submitted for the U.S. Senate Youth Program. It was the first time I was ever edited. I remember thinking, “So this is how good writing reads,” when I read what she did with my scattered ramblings. I still think what she worked into my words got me into that program along with its scholarship. She’s part of the reason that small nudge toward politics sits in my stomach.
For a long time what she wrote and what Andrew Moore wrote and what they did with what I wrote, were my standards for good writing and good editing. They are two irreplaceable people behind my personal statement, in whatever form and at whatever time.