Bringing Off-Campus Lessons Back Home

Joy ’20 has found that the lessons from a six-week summer workshop are informing her Thacher experience daily.
It’s been six months, and Joy ’20 is still assimilating what she learned at the Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS), "Mediated Lives: Performing Identity in Contemporary Media" was the name of the program she attended this past summer at Cornell University. Joy was one of 56 students selected from a national pool to participate in the conference.

“When I first found out that I had been awarded the scholarship,” Joy said, “I was sitting in the courtyard and doing my homework. It was around 11 a.m., and I distinctly remember screaming in the middle of the Middle School courtyard. I was so excited and grateful, because, after the long process with multiple essays and interviews that I put an intense amount of effort into, I felt a validation of my interests and passions.”

About the program
The Telluride Association offers several free summer educational programs, including TASS, a program for rising high school juniors in critical black and ethnic studies. The six-week course is designed to inspire young people to explore the histories, politics, and cultural experiences related to people of African descent in the U.S. Students attend a three-hour seminar each day, write several papers over the summer, and attend lectures presented by guest speakers. Each student also selects a topic of interest to present to the entire group. Writing workshops, field trips, and frequent cultural activities fill the remainder of the six weeks.

Joy’s experience
In the seminar, students investigated representation of black people in the media and the arts. “It was a valuable experience for me,” said Joy, “because I was searching for my own form of protest and that’s what they were doing at TASS—giving us a bunch of different versions of protest to study and analyze. That’s how I got even more invested in my writing and found that this is what I want to do.” She chose Epigenetics and Communities of Color as the subject of her 30-minute presentation. In fact, Joy was so intrigued by the subject, that she wants to expand on it for her Senior Ex project next year. The program also provided valuable reference materials. “I’m doing a project for my American Studies class in which I am looking at intersectionality between different populations of black people from the 1850s through the present. I wasn’t sure where I was going to find the kind of information I needed. Then, I remembered a huge binder of materials from TASS and found exactly what I needed.”

Along with the academic benefits, Joy noted additional takeaways. One is her relationship to herself and to the Thacher community. “It’s hard to describe, but you could call it freedom,” she said. “When I was at TASS, I took that time to let myself sit with myself as I am without analyzing myself—not to have to focus on everyone else’s opinion of me. I found a kind of freer version of myself, and I loved that. I’m trying to take that authenticity back here.” The other is a new cohort of peers who face similar challenges in their academic and personal lives. Her cohort of 28 high school juniors has created Snapchat and Facebook support groups. “It’s helped me so much throughout this year. I’m working on showing up as my authentic self, and when I feel challenges, I get to go back to them and text them and remind myself I’m fine. It’s kind of a break, then I get to come back and be better.”

Joy is currently in the process of applying for the Telluride’s program for high school juniors at the University of Michigan titled, Poetry and Identity. She is anxious to get the results of her application because she feels that this subject is spot-on with her personal goals.
Here’s to continued success for this aspiring writer.


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