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Archive for the tag “Metropolitan Learning Center”

Writer Rae Martin, A Young Man of Many Words

Profile interview, Rae and Cecilia

Writing Apprentices Rae Martin, left, and Cecilia Gigliotti, in a peer profile interview.

By Cecilia Gigliotti

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Rae Martin isn’t your average 15-year-old.

I was shocked from the start to learn his age. The description that crossed my mind as I sat down with him is “mature beyond his years.”

He is precocious, well-read, and a realist. In telling me about his school – the Metropolitan Learning Center, a magnet school in Bloomfield – he termed his classmates “not my kind of people.”

But then, it seems, it’s tough to find people who are.

Martin is a writer – a serious writer, banging out one short story and several poems a week. While his subjects have thus far been based in reality, his newfound fascination with George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire has inspired him to write with a slightly fantastical slant.

He has never really been a fan of the obvious – the Harry Potter series – but he believes today’s consumers might find fantasy more attractive and “entertaining.”

His familial relationships contribute largely to his work. His parents are no longer together, and while his ties are closer to his maternal relatives than to his paternal, they have both played a pivotal role in his development.

Rae Martin 2013

Rae Martin

They taught him common sense, he says. Through their lessons and his own convictions, Martin has come to believe that “while [people] have sympathy for fellow man, what they do … is self-serving.”

He is not religious, but quite philosophical: he often marvels at the way some people float through life without pondering the “deeper things.”

Then again, he acknowledges, in a world of squalor and injustice, some people can’t afford the room in their day to sit and “marinate on the world” for even a few minutes.

Who has spurred him to do some marinating of his own? What literary figures drive this aspiring novelist forward?

“I take a lot of inspiration from Charles Bukowski,” said Martin. In the style of Bukowski – whose 1982 novel Ham on Rye is one of Martin’s favorites – Martin endeavors in his own writing to “keep it real, keep it raw.”

Martin has a creative attitude toward his craft.

“If a poem is a feeling, then a short story should be a scene,” he said. “And a novel should be a whole movie.”

Whatever activities Martin pursues, he always returns to writing.

“I tried very hard to be good at [sports],” he admitted, but those odds always seemed to be against him. Besides, the school is only a decade old: many of its teams are fledglings, and there is no newspaper or literary magazine. I asked him if he has considered starting one.

“Maybe for senior project,” he said.

Martin doesn’t mind all this – he plans to build a life for himself just writing books. He hopes to get a jump start on this path in a couple of years by attending a small liberal arts school – out-of-state would be ideal – but he won’t be surprised if financial conditions keep him in Connecticut.

In any case, wherever he winds up, I am convinced of his imminent success.

The world might just have another Charles Bukowski on its hands in the very near future.

Ashaya Nelson: Ready For Senior Year, In Her Own Way

Ashaya Nelson photo

Ashaya Nelson

By Molly Miller

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Seventeen-year-old Ashaya Nelson dreams of writing about fashion in her favorite city, Madrid, and possibly having an affair on the side with President Barack Obama.

But first, she must make it through her final year of high school at the Metropolitan Learning Center in her hometown, Bloomfield, Conn.

Nelson has been attending the school since sixth grade, and she has mixed emotions about her final year.

“I’m happy, but I’m kind of scared to be a senior,” she said.

What scares her the most? This coming school year, Nelson will complete the dreaded senior project, which includes a presentation in front of a panel of teachers, as well as a service-learning component.

“The seniors tell you that they ask a lot of questions, and I don’t think I’ll be prepared,” she said. “I have a bad memory.”

Nelson has a good idea of what she wants her senior project to be about, though. This past March marked the anniversary of her older brother’s death.  Javon Turner was only 18 years old when he died in a car crash in March 2012.

Now, Nelson wants to use her senior project as an opportunity to educate other students about safe driving. For the service-learning component, she’ll speak to other students about drinking and driving.

Her brother, Nelson said, was drinking and speeding when he drove into the back of a truck.

She’s nervous about presenting her senior project, but she is excited to graduate and move on.

“I do not like my school,” Nelson said. “I am ready to leave.”

Besides being with – and growing tired of – the same classmates for seven years, Nelson is frustrated with the lack of typical high school activities and traditions.

“Other schools have a lot of sports, and they have a homecoming,” she said. “I wish we had what other schools had.”

Part of Nelson’s dislike for her school comes from her passion for fashion. She loves clothes and accessories, especially when they’re from Forever 21.

“It’s youthful,” said Nelson, calling the store’s clothes “different and unique.”

At her school, Nelson isn’t allowed to wear her shirts, blazers, or nude pumps from Forever 21; she is required to wear a uniform.

But that doesn’t mean she dresses like everyone else.

“I’m out of dress code all the time,” she said. “They want us to be simple, but I can’t do that.”

Nelson decorates her uniform with non-regulation shoes, necklaces, headbands, bangles, and scarves.

“I guess I get away with it because I’m not loud about it.”

As much as she loves fashion, she worries that she won’t be able to make a career out of it.

“I feel like [fashion] won’t be useful,” she said. “I feel like it won’t get me anywhere.”

No matter what career Nelson pursues, she will always incorporate fashion into her daily life.

She loves wearing the colors white and blue, and she’s taken inspiration from Mark Twain, whom she has been studying about this summer. “I think I want to be like Mark Twain, and have a white ‘don’t-give-a-damn’ suit.”

If Nelson does become a fashion writer, she’d love to live in Madrid, where she traveled two years ago with her school. She fell in love with the vibe, the people, the architecture, and the sculptures.

It’s easy to picture her living there one day, writing for Elle, and meeting some of her favorite celebrities, including Obama, whom she has a huge crush on.

But for now, she just needs to make it through senior year.

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