Wes: This week we begin the fifth annual Double Take essay contest to find the seventh co-author. Again this year The Family Therapy Institute Midwest and Central National Bank will offer a scholarship fund of $1,100 ($550 per semester) for his/her freshman year. More valuable is the line item on the college application and résumé, especially for those interested in journalism. The deadline is 9 p.m. April 27, with interviews on May 1.
This year’s qualifications for the Double Take author are as follows:
A 2011 senior at an area high school. We’ve now had three students from Free State, two from LHS and one from Bishop Seabury Academy. We may consider an exceptional junior, but the pool has been very competitive in the past few years.
• One-year commitment from August 2010 through August 2011.
• Skilled writer for class projects or the school paper.
• Maturity and sensibility. It’s fine to make mistakes over 17 years of living. It even generates empathy for those who write letters. However, kids currently caught up in serious drinking, drugs, abusive relationships, etc. won’t be credible and may be subject to public critique — of which there is plenty.
• Be willing to share opinions but open minded to the problems of adolescence. Extreme views, liberal or conservative, do not fit well with this format or demographic.
• Able to work as a team over e-mail.
• Able to get the job done. This is grueling at times, especially the second semester. You have to churn out one 400-word column every week by Thursday, including revisions, about 50 weeks out of the year.
• Have agreeable parents. This is a very high-profile and occasionally controversial job. Parents should review previous columns if they have any qualms.
Please review the application process carefully:
• Submit a 400-word essay responding to the challenge question published with this column, offering your best advice. Good answers may not be the obvious ones.
• With your essay submit a list of at least 10 topics and preferably more that you would like to write about as a Double Take author. We do more topical columns now, so the ability to generate fresh ideas is important. Take your time, because you’ll be assigned many of the topics you suggest.
• Ask a teacher or other knowledgeable adult to write a brief e-mail to Double Take outlining your strengths and weaknesses in taking on the column.
• Paste your essay into an e-mail and send it to email@example.com. We’ll enter this into a document without your name to allow for blind review. Our judges will review each essay and invite the best of the group for a two-hour interview on May 1.
• We’ll announce a winner and runner up on May 4. The winning essay will be published in the paper, the others published online. If the winner cannot complete his or her term, the runner-up will finish the year and receive the scholarship. Submission of essays implies release for the Journal-World to publish.
• Do your own work. Plagiarism is against the law. The top entries will be searched on the Internet to be sure they are original.
Samantha: About this time last year, my mom dropped the contest column into my lap as I ate a bowl of Life cereal in a zombie-like state at 6:30 a.m. As I read it, my sleepy eyes widened. Double Take was right up my alley. I’m pretty sure I was born with a stamp on my forehead saying, “Tell me your problems.”
In truth, I just have a genuine interest in understanding people. Eventually, after prodding into every detail of a person’s life, he or she always asks the inevitable question: So what should I do? I love that moment. I’m not one to force my opinions on other people, but when they ask, they better get comfortable because they just ordered a heaping helping of “Samanthanalysis.”
If you’re the resident advice-giver in your circle, consider entering the contest. Writing this column has been one of the best parts of my senior year. The variance in the people and problems has been astounding. While some problems are typical of what I’ve helped my friends through, other problems have never crossed my path before.
This column has taught me so much about other people, but it has also taught me about myself. I had to tell the entire city of Lawrence where I stood on uncomfortable and controversial issues. I had to form opinions about things I had never really thought about before. I had to learn that not everyone will agree with my point of view. I had to learn to take constructive criticism, and dismiss comments that were just plain rude.
Writing on a deadline hasn’t been too difficult because of my newspaper background, but sometimes whipping out a 350-word column is hard. When the topic is foreign to me, I consult others and form my own opinion, taking the best of what I’ve learned. It’s a challenge, but it’s incredibly fulfilling.
This column is an incredible opportunity. Don’t let it pass you by.
The Challenge Question: I’m a 16-year-old girl who just started a serious relationship with great guy. The problem is I’ve always liked hanging out with guys more than girls and this bothers my boyfriend. I am 100 percent loyal and he’s trying to cope with my guy friends, two of which are his friends also. Recently, one of our mutual friends asked me to do him a favor and specifically asked me not to tell my boyfriend about it. This made me really uncomfortable. What should I do? I value his friendship, but I feel like he’s put me in a bad position.
Next Week: My brother has become less caring and more distant from the family in recent years.
— Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Samantha Schwartz is a senior at Lawrence High School. 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.