School Daze

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We asked the bright young writers of the nonprofit Deep Center to help us get ready for a new year of heavy books and sassy looks. 

Photos by Kelli Boyd. 

kelliboydphotography Luisa Galvan0014

Don’t Stress; Impress

Rising eighth grader Luisa Galvan looks for ways to stay calm and collected amid the chaos of a new school year.

Managing stress and staying organized can be difficult.  It takes time to adjust to new learning environments, develop new study habits and balance your workload.  And that’s just school.

Like most kids I know, I experience stress not just from school, but also at home.  Sometimes the stress from home interferes with my focus at school, and vice versa.  I grew up without a dad.  Since the age of 9, I’ve had to step up my game to help my mom out as much as possible, especially now that my big brother has moved out and my big sister is focused on college.  I help take care of my younger siblings, Lourdes and José, when my mom is too busy or tired.  I watch my nephew when my sister-in-law and big brother are working.  I also work part-time at a flea market to make a little cash to help my mom out with the bills, so I can use all the stress management advice I can get.

FREE YOUR MIND.  Ms. Gilford, the counselor at Southwest Middle School, says that the best way to handle stress is to find something to take your mind of the situation for the moment.  Volunteer, listen to music or play a game to help you relax.

STOP AND LISTEN.  I used to volunteer at a place called “The Shed,” a local nonprofit group that provides kids with a safe place to study and get to know one another.  There, I met Iridian Lopez, a rising senior who goes to my church.  Iridian is juggling a lot of things, too.  She studies at Johnson High School but is also a part-time student at Woodville Tompkins High School.  She handles stress by listening to music.

TALK IT OUT.  Iridian also talks to her friends and asks them how they have dealt with problems.  She will tell them about the situation and see if they can help her out.

PLAY THE QUIET GAME.  Iridian keeps her focus on homework by charging her phone in a different room so she won’t have any distractions.  She also tries not to talk too much in class.  That way she can get a head start on her work so that she won’t end up procrastinating.

My close friend at Southwest, rising eighth grader Aaliyah Smith, agrees with this advice.  As a military kid, she’s moved around a lot, so she looks at each new school as a chance to reinvent herself.  She wants to be the first Africa-American woman president of the United States, but if that doesn’t work out, she wants to do something in Congress.

SET GOALS AND KEEP THEM.  To manage stress, Aaliyah motivates herself.

“I always feel that I always need to be better than everyone else because someone is always trying to be better than me,” she says.

She’s developed strong study habits and manages her work through a strong support system that she’s built with her parents and friends.

TAKE IT EASY.  Learning to accept that she’s not perfect and makes mistakes is a challenge for Aaliyah.  She sometimes has doubts that people will accept her for who she is because she comes from a different background, but she’s managed to make a lot of friends.  She sometimes forgets that she’s human and beats herself up about it.  In the end, she comes back even stronger to make herself better.

WRITE IT DOWN.  Aaliyah’s mom isn’t with her right now because she is deployed overseas.  That affects her sometimes because her mom is her biggest stress outlet and always gives her the best advice.  To deal with her mom’s absence, Aaliyah talks to her stepdad and others around her more.  She also has started a journal to write down the thoughts that she doesn’t want to share.

A new school year may seem overwhelming, but if these kids can handle it, so can you.  Just follow these simple reminders to keep calm and carry on.


kelliboydphotography Emma Gamble0019

Upgrade Your Uni

Rising eighth grader Emma Gamble and her fashion posse share their secrets to beating the dress code.

One of the worst things about going back to school is wearing plain, boring, uncomfortable uniforms.  But this doesn’t have to be a big problem—especially when you get advice from this fashion-forward panel.  I asked Haddie Harrison, a rising seventh grader from Coastal Middle School; Chloe Davis, a rising junior from Savannah Arts Academy; and Georgia Kestner, a rising seventh grader from Oglethorpe Charter School for these tips to make your school uniform a stylish reflection of you.  Then I checked with Oglethorpe assistant principal Dr. Kolman to confirm that these fashionable ideas are within the dress code.

COLOR YOUR WORLD.  Enhance the neutral shades of school uniforms with splashes of bright-colored accessories.  You don’t want to wear too many bright colors at once because they will clash.  However, there is no rule about how brightly colored your accessories can be.

SHAKE IT UP.  Do you ever get bored from wearing the same shoes to school every day?  Look at your options: flats of any style and color; different sneakers like Vans, Keds, Sperrys or Converses; any kind of slip-on shoe like Toms; or boots.  Another option could be wedges, but they must be fully enclosed and not exceed a half-inch heel.

UP YOUR ‘DO.  Your hair can turn your uniform from drab to fab if you use these quick and easy styles.

Ponytails and half ponytails are always easy, and braiding is a versatile option.  Braid on each side of your head and connect the two braids in the back with a barrette for a look that has a little bit of up and down to it.

Depending on what kind of hair you have, you might want to leave it down and curl or straighten it.  To add some flair to your hair, use decorative bobby pins that are gold or silver, with flowers, jewels or other decorations—anything that is made to clip in your hair.  A creative option would be to get colorful and decorative headbands.  Flowers and bows are a good idea, but you don’t want them too big.  Bigger isn’t always better.

SPARKLE AND SHINE.  Jewelry adds a fashionable touch to your plain-Jane uniforms.  If you’re going to wear a necklace, go big or go home, unless you have an ID and lanyard as part of your dress code.  In that case, consider one or several simple necklaces.

According to the dress code, you can wear earrings of any size, as long as they are not distracting.  Wear brightly colored earrings to make them noticeable.  If your hair is up, wear small dangly earrings or studs.  Bracelets and rings are also a good idea, but don’t go too big with them.

BE YOURSELF.  You have to wear a uniform, but that doesn’t mean you can’t express yourself.  If your school allows it, wear different kinds of jackets or sweaters to make yourself stick out from everyone else.  You can wear decorative cases or lanyards, put key chains on your lanyard, and wear pins that express things you like.  If you have to wear a belt of a certain color, get different styles in that color.  Something as simple as painting your fingernails, carrying an awesome purse or small backpack, or wearing different makeup can give your plain uniform a fashionable touch.  Makeup is fine as long as it’s not distracting.  To top it all off, you can have your backpack, lunch box and other items monogrammed to personalize your outfit even more.  T


kelliboydphotography Veronica Yancy0028


Apply Yourself

How do you get noticed among the thousands applying to your favorite colleges?  Rising freshman Veronica Yancey digs up the details on building the ideal resume.

To get your dream job, you’re most likely going to have to get a college degree.  In order to get into college, you will need to build a strong resume with more than good grades, but some students aren’t sure where to start.  They may not know even what to—and what not to—put on a resume.

As an incoming high school freshman (class of 2019), I need to get started myself, so I asked three juniors for their advice.

GO TEAM!  Sam Bignault, a rising senior and top of his class at Savannah Christian Preparatory School, wants to be a dentist.  Some of the schools he is looking at are the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University and Georgia Tech.

Sam’s resume makes it clear that he’s a basketball player and world traveler.  He says that extracurricular activities and community service are important.  He did 220 hours of community service at a hospital last summer, but he explains that even 60 hours of community service in a year is a good thing.  He also says that clubs are important to include.

But don’t overdo it, he cautions.  Colleges would rather see that you play two sports than three to show dedication to learning.

“(Emphasize) anything that a college can look at and say, ‘We are missing this piece, and we think this person will definitely fill that spot in our college,’” Sam adds.  “And teacher recommendations are good.”

GET TO WORK.  Kateryna “Kate” Polyakova is a rising senior at Woodville Tompkins who just completed her business and engineering pathways.  She has an internship with Gulfstream.  She is looking at Georgia Tech, Southern Polytechnic University and Georgia Southern to continue her education.

Kate agrees with Sam about extracurricular activities and sports, and she adds that internships during your junior and senior years are important, as are academic achievements, jobs and exam scores.

“(But) don’t include your middle school and freshman achievements and small odd jobs, such as babysitting,” she advises.

MAKE THE GRADE.  Kennedy Jewel Freeman is a cheerleader and a rising senior at Savannah Christian.  She is looking at Auburn University, Mercer University and the University of Georgia.  She agrees that she would put down her volunteer work, extracurricular activities and her awards, but not small jobs.

Kennedy offers her ideas on how to prioritize: “Grades and academic awards are probably the most important, then volunteering, and then sports and after-school activities.”

All of these students agree that grades and volunteer work are the most important features on your resume.  But the biggest lesson I’m taking away from this article is this: If you’re not active at school and in the community, you won’t have much of a college application.  T


kelliboydphotography Carolina Guerrero0005


Speak Up

Through creative writing, Carolina Guerrero of Southwest Middle School found the courage to be unique.  Here, she and her friends tell us how they stand out.

I have always been the quiet one, the shy one, at least at school.  At home, I’m different.  I’m fun. I like to dance and sing and talk—especially talk.  Nobody at school thinks I talk much.

Deep is where I went so that I could find a voice.  It’s a middle school program where I could be myself.  Where people would treat me equally.  Somewhere I could write freely and know that I’m doing good work.

When I’m at Deep, I don’t feel like I have to be the quiet one.  I don’t speak a lot, but when I do, I feel comfortable.  In front of my classmates, I don’t.  Through Deep, I have gained confidence.  I have learned how to speak up.  I have learned how to be myself and not feel scared or embarrassed.  I have learned who I really am.

REAL TIME.  My friend Supreme loves it when someone speaks her mind.  She thinks you should   accept each person and their ideas, because everyone is different and their ideas are important.

“It brings out the uniqueness in the world,” Supreme says.

Supreme loves to play clarinet and spend time with her friends and family.   Her most important goals in life are to take care of people and give back to the community, because she knows what it’s like to want, to need something but not be able to get it.

STAND UP.  My friend Nana is different; she has her own way of living.  She loves to read, debate and play sports.  When she zip-lines or rides her bike, she feels like the possibilities are limitless.  She thinks it’s important to stand out and feel confident in order to reach your full potential.

“If I strive to be unique, chances are people will notice.  Blending in with everyone around you is boring, and you don’t get to be who you really are.”

Nana’s biggest goal is something she describes as “unrealistic.”  She wants to help everyone get a home, get along with each other, be treated equally and solve all conflicts.

RESPECT.  Anthony thinks independence and singularity are the keys to being your own person.  He loves to play soccer because it makes him feel alive.  He thinks it’s important to stand out and be confident.

“I don’t like it when somebody says I’m like another,” he says.

When I ask Anthony how he thinks people should react when others speak their mind, he tells me that people should be respectful even if they don’t agree.

NOT SHALLOW.  Deep has had a big impact on how I see my future.  It has shown me that I do have importance and that it’s okay for me to speak my mind.  I am so glad that I was able to participate in the Deep workshops and to read my pieces aloud onstage at the Savannah Theatre.  Those opportunities have helped me learn how to use my voice and leave an impact on those who listen.

If it weren’t for Deep, I wouldn’t be able to share my writing with all these amazing people.  I would never have learned that my voice can be projected—and some people will actually listen.