(Photo Credit: In This Together Media)
Wry social commentary disguised in young adult fiction and served with a healthy dose of humor makes for some refreshing read. Personal Statement by Emmy-nominated writer and tv producer, Jason Odell Williams (In This Together Media, July 2013), is the irreverent portrayal of three ambitious college-bound students who will transform a natural catastrophe into an opportunity to boost their resumes and enhance their chances to be accepted by prestigious universities.
Anyone who’s applying to a top college can sport outstanding report cards, perfect test scores, leadership, sports, and volunteering, but what really separates a college application from the rest of the pile is a killer personal statement. Our young protagonists need an epic opportunity, a ‘frontline’ life experience that will turn their personal essay into a touching representation of their unique personalities. And that opportunity presents itself in the form of a hurricane heading for Connecticut. Being part of the volunteer rescue effort is the wild card Emily, Rani, and Robert were hoping for in order to stand out over a crowd of college applicants. The problem is that the crowd of pre-college students they were trying to leave behind had exactly the same idea.
Nudged by their parents, spurred by individualism, or motivated by an unhealthy obsession for academic excellence, Emily, Rani, and Robert rush to the place where Calliope will make landfall, just to find out what really defines them and makes them happy.
Williams’ characters belong to a world of wealth and privilege, nuveau riche and old money: it won’t be easy for everyone to relate to their status and background, although that very elitism provides the author with an hilarious foil for his social satire. Clearly, Personal Statement strikes a chord, as it ridicules the idiosyncrasies of our educational model and the absurdity of college admissions, a process that nowadays borders a mania at best, a real nightmare at worst.
“The average student uses 400 sheets of paper during the college application process…getting into college has never been harder.“
For many high-school students (and their parents), college application is an angsty and stressful experience: when a model of education values achievement over real knowledge, and trades love of learning for cut-throat values and an impossible ideal of perfection, we undermine our children’s mental sanity and happiness – not a promise of a bright future.
According to neuroscientist Dan Siegel
), our present educational system, with its sole focus on reading, writing, arithmetic skills, and its over-achievement philosophy, is imprisoning our children’s brains. It’s a proven fact that stress blocks learning: higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) affect our executive functions and our ability to develop self-understanding and empathy. What really promotes brain growth is the human ability to tune in our internal world with the use of reflection, resiliency, emphatic relationships, even acts of kindness. They all support well-being and productivity while enhancing the brain emission of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that triggers optimism and happiness.
Improving the overall well-being of children, youth, and adults by equipping them with vital social and emotional literacy skills necessary to lead smart, healthy, happiest lives with greater engagement in learning, work and life, is the mission of The Hawn Foundation,
a 501 (c) 3 organization established ten years ago by Academy winning actress and producer, Goldie Hawn
(Photo Credit: The Hawn Foundation)
“Today like never before, our little ones are challenged with incredible amounts of stress and distractions, impeding learning, and ultimately, impacting their ability to achieve success and happiness in life. I have always been fascinated by the limitless potential of the brain and have seen first-hand the positive impact of “heart-mind centric” education on children and educators. Embarking on my own journey exploring neuroscience, positive psychology, mindful awareness training, […] led me on a larger quest, as a children’s advocate, to improve their overall well-being”, says the actress and philanthropist.
(Photo Credit: The Hawn Foundation)
MindUP™, an evidence-based, CASEL accredited social and emotional literacy program, is the result of a 10-year-long collaboration between The Hawn Foundation and a team of neuroscientists, educators, psychologists and experts in the field of mindful awareness training. The MindUP™ tools and strategies increase focus, improve academics and create happiness and resiliency in children throughout six countries. If you would like to make a donation to bring MindUP™ into a school or after care program near you , please visit the foundation’s website for more details.