When I was going into my junior year in high school I was extremely fortunate to attend a summer academic program in Massachusetts called M.A.S.P. M.A.S.P. stood for Massachusetts Advanced Studies Program and it was an unbelievable experience housed on Milton Academy’s beautiful campus in Milton, MA. It was kind of a nerd camp for rising high school upperclassmen in Massachusetts. I have no idea how I got in. I think my sister had something to do with it. She went there and worked there one summer and probably pulled some strings for me. Can’t remember the exact details, but no one in my high school at that time would have tagged me as “nerd camp material”. Anyway, I got in and it changed my life.
Like most educational experiences, it’s the teachers that make it work. At M.A.S.P. I was blessed to have an English teacher that changed my whole world view in just a few weeks of a summer program. I’ll call him Professor Bob (that’s his first name but I won’t use his last because I didn’t tell him I was writing this post about him…you get it).
Professor Bob was an English teacher at Milton Academy and luckily for me he stayed on campus during the summer to teach M.A.S.P. courses. Professor Bob led us in a course about crafting essays for college admissions. Since all of us had just finished our sophomores years, the college essay writing process was wildly intimidating. Professor Bob didn’t take it easy on us. I still remember all the harsh red marks on my first draft. I wrote something lame about how I didn’t like going to football practice but I realized that I had to and that taught me about life…blah blah blah. Professor Bob, a gay black man, taught me to bring my authentic self to my essay. He asked me about about my experiences as a young black kid growing up in a white neighborhood and what that was like. He helped me find a voice that was exclusively mine and he drove me to develop an essay that was the polar opposite of my initial generic attempt. Professor Bob unlocked my ability to be myself.
As a side note, Professor Bob, a graduate of Amherst College, gave me the confidence to apply to Amherst, a school that was never on my radar of possibility. The following year, Professor Bob wrote a great candid recommendation for my Amherst application and I got in shortly after.
To this day, I think about my conversations with Professor Bob when I find myself losing my voice. Educators like Professor Bob unlock kids’ individuality and offer them access that fundamentally changes lives.
Salute, Professor Bob. Thanks again.
The journey of education as a whole — and the college process particularly — can be extremely daunting for young people. It’s always a great idea to find admissions counselors that can help the process along.
This post was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Financial Group (MassMutual). All opinions are my own.