This personal essay series features stories by high school students taking part in Chalkbeat’s fellowship program.

This year’s graduating seniors were freshmen when COVID first closed schools.
Chalkbeat’s 2023-24 paid essay writing program is open to high school juniors and seniors in NYC and Newark.
We tackle topics like consent, gender, and self-advocacy. The goal: To destigmatize difficult conversations.
Sometimes, I need Google Translate just to have a conversation with my mom.
Since coming to America, my parents have relied on me to navigate school conferences, doctors’ appointments, and even tax forms. Now I’m headed to college.
Here’s what I want you to know about Chicago’s Wendell Phillips Academy High School.
I had advocated for new approaches to discipline. Then I benefitted from them.
I resented the expectation that I lead with my trauma. But trauma is not the only thing that defines me, and it’s not the only reason I deserve to go to college.
My parents speak Spanish; my 8-year-old brother speaks English. Why aren’t there children’s books they can enjoy together?
Growing up, masculinity meant denying vulnerability. There’s a better way.
En Español
Changing my mannerisms and voice requires agility. It’s a skill and a burden.
She invited me to live with her in Chicago, seizing the opportunity to change our family’s story.
My NYC campus is famous for its academics. It’s also an incredibly creative, supportive, and idiosyncratic place.
On my first day of school, I wore a pink floral hijab. I didn’t realize it would make me a target.
I chose Science Park’s International Baccalaureate program for its rigorous academics. My classmates and teachers made it an experience I’ll cherish forever.
The realities of racism, poverty, food insecurity, and gun violence surprised me.
Exposure to the humanities will make me a more open-minded and compassionate physician.
I realize now that the roof over my head doesn’t define my mom or me.
The women in my family haven’t had the opportunities now before me, but their stories made mine possible.
While visiting historically Black campuses, I began to reimagine what my college experience could be.
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