An invitation to help with youth ministry

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I had known this woman for many years. She was my P.E. teacher when I was in grade school and always involved in school activities.

During the summer before I left for California, I had helped in small ways with the youth group. It was something to do and a way to be involved. I enjoyed being with this group, but I didn’t have high hopes that I was actually able to offer more than chaperoning assistance.

Yet when I returned from Los Angeles, the youth minister approached me and invited me to join her team. I know I hesitated, wondering if she was asking the right person. So there was a compromise. She invited me to check out the regular Sunday night program. No strings attached. I could come, see for myself, and join or choose to walk away.

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After Los Angeles: Transitioning back to SC

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By early September 2007, I had finished my year of volunteering in Los Angeles. I still wasn’t sure what to pursue as my next step. I applied to various jobs but nothing panned out.

Part of my growth while in California was being exposed to the world of journalism. I realized I enjoyed that kind of writing, but it was challenging to approach strangers and ask for their feedback. I was a small fish in a big pond; I felt like I was thrashing around trying to make things work. But there was some excitement nonetheless, a bit of a thrill with figuring out how to piece many little parts together into a finished story, even if the interviewing aspect was nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. (If you missed them, you can read the pieces I wrote for my San Francisco assignment and the personal article on my brother becoming a priest.)

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A priest in the family

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My brother being ordained to the priesthood in July 2007.

A few weeks before Easter 2007, I was using the photocopier at the newspaper and the editor came by to check his mailbox. We talked for a few minutes, and he again thanked me for a nice job with my piece for the Walk for Life.

He asked if I had plans to visit my family for Easter. Sadly, I told him no. This would be the second year in a row that I wasn’t able to spend this special time with my family. As a senior in college, I had participated on a retreat during Holy Week in Rhode Island.

I forget how the topic of conversation turned to my family in this way, but the editor acknowledged that my brother would be ordained a priest that summer. And he asked if I was interested in writing a piece about that for an upcoming special section on religious vocations, to write about what it’s like, this idea of having a priest in the family.

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New year, stronger me: Affirmations

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I’ve learned a lot about myself in these last 9 months with this blog. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to explore and dive in to these moments from my past, to better understand who I am. I’m working on improving the way I view myself and what I have to offer to others, and I’ve made a lot of progress. Still plenty more to go, but at least there’s improvement.

I’m trying to think more positively about myself. See myself more as others see me (the ones who have a more balanced view of me), rather than just zeroing in on the ways I’ve fallen short. Those negative moments shouldn’t be the things that define who I am or how I measure myself.

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College poetry readings

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So the coffee shop location where the readings happened was small like this. Not as tight quarters with the tables crammed together, but there is a similar vibe.

My second semester writing course focused more on persuasive writing. There was a structured formula to follow that included making an assertion, backing it up with examples and research, providing a rebuttal, refuting that, and then offering conclusions.

The structured part was intimidating, but I remember that it helped me see how it was possible to write a 5-10 page paper on the same topic.

I liked my professor. Something about her made me trust her judgement, not just in class but in general. Perhaps she mentioned her personal writing, offering a sense of more happening besides teaching classes. I forget how it happened, but her opinion was one I trusted and I shared one of my poems with her. She referred me to a friend of hers who hosted monthly poetry open mic nights in nearby Charlotte and edited a literary magazine.

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Applying for Governor’s School

As I’ve mentioned before, I often shared my poetry writing with the school guidance counselor. She was the one who encouraged me to another step in developing my skills.

She was the one who would hang posters on the wall of the cafeteria of scholarship contests and other scholarly opportunities. I first heard about the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities by spotting a poster in the cafeteria. The Governor’s School was offering a 5-week program in the summer for various visual and performance arts, music and creative writing. The poster included details about a one-day workshop at a local community college to offer a chance to work on poetry and learn more about the summer program. Even though I was attending a high school in Georgia, I remained eligible to apply because I still lived in South Carolina.

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Poem: Allusions of Myself

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I wrote this during my sophomore year of college. I remember sitting in the cafeteria trying to come up with a poem to share at a poetry reading. Yes, during a freshman writing course, my professor introduced me to a group in a nearby city that hosted monthly poetry readings. She said they would welcome a college student. I just had to find the nerve to give it a chance. Eventually all my favorite poems that I had written in high school had been shared and I was in need of new material.

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