On a Thursday afternoon in November, thirty-two volunteer mentors convened at Madison High School’s library. They had been trained by Writers in the Schools to help students work on their essays for college and scholarship applications. Soon the students in Mr. Fredgant’s class filed in and were matched one-on-one with a mentor.

Susie Bartley from Franklin High School gave a presentation on tips for writing a great college essay, and then everyone got to work. Most students came with a draft of their essay, so mentors were able to help them with nuts and bolts issues, such as grammar and punctuation. More importantly, mentors helped students craft their work to showcase their experiences, achievements, and unique challenges and triumphs. Just as Ms. Bartley advised, when students portrayed themselves as a phoenix rising from the ashes, they worked to “focus on the phoenix, not the ashes.”

Judging by the conversations we overheard, the energy in the room, and the written feedback we’ve received, it was a highly successful event. Students said they will implement the mentor’s advice as they revise their essays, and mentors came away with a sense of accomplishment and excitement for what these students will achieve.

Thanks to all our mentors, the students, the teachers and staff at Madison and to Susie Bartley for helping us make this happen. We’re excited for the next session at Franklin on November 15!