On June 18, 2018, high school students ventured to the University of St. Thomas to begin their ThreeSixty Journalism journey with College Essay Boot Camp. The launch of the intensive one-week program marked the beginning of ThreeSixty’s 2018 summer programming.
In College Essay Boot Camp, students use the fundamentals of writing to craft personal essays ready to submit to the colleges of their choice. That’s right – students create polished, adaptable college essays from scratch in just one week! Volunteer writing coaches mentor students throughout the writing process, from brainstorming to final touches.
Returning writing coach and former Star Tribune reporter Bob Franklin shared his strategy on mentoring students.
“I give lots of feedback on structure, keeping in mind that ultimately this essay is theirs, and they’re selling themselves to the university,” Franklin said.
Franklin noticed students don’t particularly like to go in-depth when they are talking about themselves, so he teaches them that who they are is the most important story of all. Regarding writing in general, Franklin encourages anyone starting out to, “Read. Read critically. Recognize writing is hard work but can also be fun and rewarding.”
Boot camp students come from different backgrounds and possess various levels of writing ability. Many came with a goal in mind for improvement.
“I wanted to learn how to express myself effectively. Most of the time, I just word vomit on a page and never know where to go with the structure from there,” Champlin Park High School senior Georgean Wuo said.
Harding High School student Ayomide Adesanya brought another perspective, “I want to use my writing to bring them [the reader] along with me during my story.”
In order to give students an extra push to think beyond the essay and toward the future, ThreeSixty hosted AlumniConnect day. ThreeSixty scholars Deborah Honore (2014) and Zekriah Chaudhry (2018), along with other longtime program participants were present. They shared the impact of ThreeSixty in their lives beyond high school and spoke of the many career paths now available to them upon entering college.
With all this inspiration, students went to work. Daily workshops on word choice and strong openers had students eager to share their finished products with their peers at the end of the week.
Robbinsdale Armstrong High School sophomore Layla Siferllah-Griffin remarked, “I wrote about music. I don’t play or anything, but I think music is like my language and it has always been really important to me.”
Champlin Park student Pearl Moonga wrote about her connection to poetry. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School student Sabrina Mohamed wrote about the history of her Ethiopian ancestors, and South High School student Besso Frauenhim-Danke wrote on how her adoptive parents are responsible for the opportunities she has now.
This year, ThreeSixty welcomed a new partnership with Girls Inc.’s Eureka! program. Eureka! is a five-year summer and school year program for girls focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
ThreeSixty Engagement Manager Bao Vang watched the Girls Inc. get their first taste of ThreeSixty.
“I enjoyed co-teaching and getting to know the Girls Inc. staff and students,” Vang said. “Everyone was clearly committed to receiving the best experience in completing a college essay. Their stories are powerful, insightful and inspiring. I have no doubt these talented young women will use their essays to elevate their chances of getting into the colleges of their choice.”
All week, students worked and played hard, and gained valuable skills and connections. With 50 participants, this was the biggest summer participation in College Essay Boot Camp since its 2016 inception.
“I guess you are your own worst critic,” said Harding High School senior Alex Vue, “I came in thinking I was a really bad writer, especially with grammar. But my writing coach said I only needed to fix a few mistakes. I decided to write about my family. About everything they went through to immigrate here. I wanted to reflect on all they have done for me to live a comfortable life.”