Wes: April has arrived, and it's time again for the annual Double Take essay contest to find next year's co-author. Once again the Family Therapy Institute Midwest and Central National Bank have put together a scholarship fund of $1,100 for the co-author's freshman year in college. If other individuals, organizations or businesses wish to contribute to the fund, they can contact me for further information. The scholarship is payable to any college or technical school, half in the fall and half in the spring of the student's first year. The fund cannot be released for any other purpose. (Sorry, no down payments on a Mustang). More valuable than the scholarship is the fact that authorship looks great on your resume and college applications, especially if you're interested in journalism.
This year the qualifications for the Double Take author are as follows:
¢ 2008-09 senior or exceptional junior at a Douglas County area high school. We've had two students from Free State, one from LHS and one from Bishop Seabury Academy so far - three seniors and a junior.
¢ Can commit to one year from August 2008 until summer 2009.
¢ Skilled writer for class projects or the school paper.
¢ Mature and sensible. It's fine to make mistakes over 17 years of living. It even generates empathy for those who write in. However, kids currently caught up in serious drinking, drugs, abusive relationships, etc., will have a hard time being credible and may be subjected to public critique.
¢ Have opinions and be willing to share them, but open-minded to the problems of adolescence. Extreme views, be they liberal or conservative, do not fit well with this format or demographic.
¢ Able to develop topics of his/her own choosing at least six to 10 times per year depending on the flow of letters.
¢ Able to work as a team using MS Word and e-mail. Over the years we've developed an online system for writing the column that works well.
¢ Able to get the job done. This can be a bit grueling at times, especially the second semester. You have to churn out one 300- to 400-word column per week, on a Thursday deadline including revisions, 50 weeks out of the year.
¢ Able to accept editing to fit space and context of column.
¢ Have agreeable parents. The folks must agree to allow their child to write the column. This is a high-profile and occasionally controversial job. Parents should review previous columns if they have any qualms.
¢ Submit a 400-word essay responding to the challenge question at the end of the column. Offer your best advice on how the letter writer should deal with their problem. Consider all sides of the issue. Good answers may not be obvious ones.
¢ Ask a teacher or other knowledgeable adult to write us a brief e-mail of recommendation to the Double Take address.
¢ Paste your essay into an e-mail and send it to email@example.com or mail it to 2601 W Sixth St., Suite C, Lawrence 66049, Attn: Wes Crenshaw (Double Take). We'll paste this into a document without your name for blind review. Julia and I will review each essay and invite finalists for an interview.
From this group we'll select a winner and a runner-up, and we'll publish both essays in a future column - tentatively May 13th or 20th, depending on response. If the winner cannot complete his or her term, the runner- up will be selected and will receive the scholarship. Submission of the essay releases the Journal-World to publish it.
Do your own work. Plagiarism is unacceptable. The top entries will be searched on the Internet to ensure originality.
Julia: I won't lie. This column has been one crazy, exhilarating and challenging ride. To write a response for someone you don't know requires being critical of yourself and at times reeling back your personal opinions. On top of that, most letters aren't your typical "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul" kinds of problems. Sometimes I've had to do background research to figure out what a writer was even talking about. This isn't a throwaway essay that you can bang out in 15 minutes. It's a published piece that someone will be taking seriously. Though the letters are anonymous, the responses can never be impersonal. Sometimes I think the advice must be about as fun to take as cough medicine. Beyond the actual content of the column, having a set-in-stone weekly responsibility takes good time management, which as Wes can tell you is not my forte. I've had to put aside my laziness and procrastination for a better cause. And despite the grunt work that goes into producing it, I've really enjoyed working on Double Take and thinking my advice makes some difference, actually helping someone or at least inciting interesting conversations.
That said, writing this column is not for the faint of heart. It's important that an unbiased eye, empathy and good judgment are used in offering advice. If you're ONLY applying to boost a college resume, look elsewhere. Yes, it will look very good at application time, but far better reasons include improving your writing, thinking through what is and isn't good advice, or giving an interesting spin to the column that others might have missed. You don't have to be a junior psychologist, just a mature person and a decent writer. Much of the advice comes from the heart, not from textbooks or other people.
The challenge question: I am a high school senior, a reasonably good student and well-respected at my school. I help out a lot with student government, plays and other events, and I try to be a good role model. The problem is, since I'm not usually in a position of immediate power, my efforts either go unappreciated or unnoticed. I have good ideas, and I bend over backward to help my school and other students when needed. Unfortunately, nobody, including the teachers, seems to care. My extra work gets credited to other people, and people seem more interested in criticizing than supporting my efforts. I can't just stand aside and watch things go poorly because I wasn't there to help. How can I get the appreciation I deserve without boasting about my work or completely stepping aside?
Next week: A teacher shares her thoughts on the problems of IEPs.
- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Julia Davidson is a Bishop Seabury Academy junior. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence is strictly confidential.