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My Personal Statement Challenge: Earica’s Story

IMG_0083Earica Parrish (TMA ’13) didn’t know that several failed attempts at writing her personal statement for college would ironically lead her on a journey to major in Magazine Journalism, a writing-intensive field. During her senior year at TMA, she felt confident after submitting her nicely typed, double-spaced, 2-page, 700 word final essay that explained why her college of choice would be lucky to have her as a student.

“I had already been working with my mentors on my personal essay the summer before senior year, so I had been pretty confident in the work that I produced,” said Parrish, a rising senior at Syracuse University. “So when Mr. Mitchell [TMA’s Director of College and Alumni Programming] ripped up, marked up, and trashed my tens of thousands of drafts, I thought he was picking on me.”

Eventually, Parrish realized that Mr. Mitchell wasn’t picking on her, but he was challenging her to write in an engaging tone that would result in a memorable personal statement. TMA’s College Counseling Team work with seniors in the beginning of the school year to help them complete their personal statements by November, the start of college application season. By the time students reach the 12th grade, they’re conditioned to writing essays, research, and informative papers. But this is not the writing style that is popular in the college application process. “The challenge with writing personal statements is that students have to go beyond writing an essay. They have to tell a story,” said Mr. Mitchell.

In Senior Seminar, Mr. Mitchell introduces students to creative writing prompts that help them explore a descriptive writing style. “Remember, admissions counselors read hundreds of thousands of essays in a given week so it’s essential for our students’ essays to stand out,” said Mr. Mitchell.

“Ultimately, his critique of my personal statement challenged me to look inside myself to find a writing voice outside of formal papers. Because of TMA, I have challenged myself to expand my creative writing voice,” said Parrish who credits TMA for pursuing a degree in magazine journalism.

Parrish has been enhancing her writing skills for sure. In addition to the course work she takes at Syracuse University, a number of internship opportunities have given her hands-on exposure in the field of creative writing and hard news writing. For almost two years, Parrish has been part of the Student News Team at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications where she covers campus stories and events, and profiles students and alumni.

Parrish admits that her experiences at TMA helped her discover her passion for writing. She believes that programs like Job Shadow Day, where students learn the ins-and-outs about their career interests, and free college tours were the specific activities that made a difference for her. While some of her peers attended neighborhood high schools that didn’t provide emotional support and encouragement during the college application process, Parrish found a family at TMA.

“It will be impossible to imagine my college career going the way it has without having the support of TMA. Because of the help and guidance TMA has provided me, I have developed the courage to pursue whatever it is I put my mind to,” she said.

Thurgood Marshall Academy serves communities in Wards 7 and 8 and was established to provide students from East of the River communities with a college-preparatory high school. “I am so thankful that there are people who believe in the legacy of Thurgood Marshall Academy,” she said. For 15 years, TMA students, many of whom are first-generation college-goers, attend, persist through, and graduate college at rates five times higher than their neighborhood peers.

“I am proud of where I come from despite the challenges that Southeast DC youth face,” she ends.