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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fast Times at Benjamin N. Cardozo High

Last night I went into the depths of Queens--and since I live in blue-collar, anti-hipster Woodside, you know I went deep into the belly of the beast that is Queens--to represent Wellesley College at a college fair at Benjamin N. Cardozo High (...respect!). It was pretty much an awesome night, and not just because boys would come into my room to take a Wellesley brochure, and I'd sweetly say, "Guys, Wellesley is a women's college," and they would take fright and flee. Flee with this expression of horrified panic, as if I'd wanted them to listen to poetry about my menstrual cycle and sing along to Ani DiFranco. That part was hilarious.
But the incredible part was meeting these young women, who were already really excited about possibly attending Wellesley, and talking with them about what college meant to them, and all the things they were currently doing. They were all athletes, or spoke Chinese or Arabic or Russian or Thai, or volunteering, or generally working to find a cure for cancer. They'd tell me that they were in the 96 percentile GPA, and spoke Hindi, Farsi and Swedish, and ran track and then say, "But wow, if you got into Wellesley, you must have been really amazing right?" Um.
Okay, I'm going to be honest here and say that while I did attend an excellent high school, and had excellent grades--or evaluations, since we didn't have grades, cough rich hippies cough--and did have a play on off-Broadway when I was 18...I also spent a great deal of time in high school, hanging out, reading old issues of Mad Magazine, walking my dog and talking with my friends. I did, it is true, read voraciously, about 3 books a week, but it was random, everything from Portnoy's Complaint to Chekhov to Ionesco. I also spent a lot of time day-dreaming and whining. (I did not, however, feel the need to let the kids in on that.)
I don't usually spend a great deal of time around teenagers, so right here and now I am going to publicly apologize for my more unpleasant assumptions about them: you know, that they all have ridiculous taste in music, clothing; that they're all a pain in the ass, etc. I was wrong! I'm starting to suspect that I was judging them based on how I was as a teenager: sullen, cranky, wearing loafers, listening to Richard Marx. (Oh my.)
These kids were pretty incredible: dedicated, smart, multi-lingual, ambitious, well-spoken, charming and so inspiring. And it didn't hurt that most of them thought I had only graduated college a few years ago: love that!
I left there after three hours; I was exhausted, but given all the nattering nabobs of negativity we hear in the news, all those idiot Kardashians, etc., it was like a breath of fresh, spring air to meet these passionate, involved, articulate, super-smart kids. I kind of needed that...which is sort of funny, right? I went there to share with those students something that meant a great deal to me--my college experience--and they shared with me something much more important.

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