Sarah Robbins (far right, with the rest of the Teens in Print team) is one of two Commonwealth Corps members at WriteBoston, serving through the Massachusetts Service Alliance. In her role as the College & Career Readiness Coordinator, Sarah leads a new initiative that extends Teens in Print programming to support the college application process. Prior to coming to WriteBoston, Sarah served as a City Year AmeriCorps member at a Boston Public middle school, and is passionate about supporting young people in their writing. Sarah reflects on her first few months of service and what it means to support students in the tricky and exciting transition to college. 

WriteBoston is grateful to the Massachusetts Service Alliance for partnering to support teens and their post-secondary dreams, and to the Wells Fargo Foundation, for investing in this partnership. 

Teens in Print has been thrilled to begin Next Chapter, a college and career readiness program designed to take high schoolers from start of the application process to the finish line. In our first year, we have focused our efforts on the intimidating college essay, working with students one-on-one to assist in the essay drafting process, and creating engaging workshops to teach essay writing skills in the classroom.

Our programming kicked off in September, and during the past three and a half months, Next Chapter has met with over 100 students through individual and whole classroom support. We have served at WriteBoston partnership schools, including Madison Park High School and Urban Science Academy, to present essay brainstorming and drafting workshops. At Madison Park High School, I met students passionate about video composition, photography, and directing, many of whose interests began with a love of storytelling. At Urban Science Academy, I met students with a range of prospective careers and interests, from chemistry to nursing to visual arts to journalism. Everywhere I go though, there is one constant: the students. They are passionate, dedicated, creative, and hilarious, and each with a compelling story to tell.

When the year started I didn’t know much about the college essay, other than that I had written one myself four years ago. I had helped friends edit theirs, and knew a little about what admissions counselors expected. But I wasn’t certain how to break the fundamentals of writing down into a clear, informative lesson. I began reading accepted college essays, listening to podcasts from college experts, and reading blogs from admissions counselors about what makes a good essay.

When I go into classrooms, I find that workshops with activities that focus on student’s editing, writing, or peer editing work best to help them learn concepts of narrative writing. Every student, even ones who claim they have no idea what to write, have some event or person who has deeply influenced their life. The most common barriers teens face are not knowing where or how to begin, or not knowing how to organize and structure their ideas. After countless individual appointments and workshops, my tasks have become clear: help students structure their ideas, begin their stories, and feel less intimidated. Essentially, encourage and advance their journey towards telling their own stories.

In the spring, I am looking forward to creating content geared towards juniors to assist their college readiness process. I can’t wait to begin drafting lessons on SAT prep, college interviews, and more. The college admissions process can be an incredibly stressful time in a student’s life, and I am hopeful that we can make their year a little easier.

Thank you, Sarah – we’re grateful for your skill, patience, and good humor!