Scholarship essay writing, CIS event-vols put focus on “better,” 500 words at a time

There were three important factors for my joy in participating in a Communities in Schools program Saturday morning, one of which has something to do with the view from Grandfather Mountain.

20190630_131300That I’m contacted for this is optimal “Social Capital” (time, effort, “being”), and to utilize my professional skills for a specific four-hour gig, working with already accepted HS students to write better essays as part of scholarship money applications, is right at the top of Satisfying.

I’m not a parent, but seeing my suggestions immediately and directly acted on, is affirming. That those changes *will* make a difference, that floats my boat.

The short time commitment shows both the respect CIS has for professional availability, and is a testament to how focused on the difference they recognize this time – essentially 1.5 hours online – can make.

The two dozen or so students who attended  the Access Granted Workshop at Philllip O. Berry – Academy of Technology, also learned about online sites that described available scholarships for another important aspect, “Where?” such money might be.

Essays often ask for response to ‘catastrophic’

The standard 500 word essays scholarship applicants are asked for usually focus on something catastrophic that happened in their lives, and what they did about it. The standard throughout most of my writing career has been “a good hook” in that first paragraph, and that’s more important in essays than the click value that emphasizes titles and subheads for readability now.

One simple step to improve almost everyone’s letter writing is to break up huge blocks of print. Yes, reading train-of-thought style for 26 lines will always look daunting, and people who have to do it LOTS of times for their jobs might miss whats in the sauce…

It’s just a good idea to start a new paragraph for visual relief, and its not a bad thing to even add an extra line. Knowing how ‘real world’ applications for company sites can be very unfriendly to submissions that are less than pro forma, be willing to go back through and edit. The extra effort to go back and change 6-comma, run-on sentences into two real ones with periods, plus that comment you thought of after finishing, usually feels like a small reward.

New thought, new paragraph, even if its only a significant one liner.

“I intend to go to Howard or some other HBC (Historically Black Colleges), because several people I respect a lot have talked about what it meant to them.” -Kai.

Confidence in the communicating

Having discussed the last line of  the business card I gave several kids, they were amused about “Smarter than the average bear” writer, which is explained at the top of my landing page.  While I hold Matt Damon in “The Martian” as a high end example, I state that having done a variety of projects, I’m confident about being better than Yogi, the one-trick bear, who only stole picnic baskets. Its a sense of self 17-18 years olds don’t easily recognize.

The “catastrophic” change for Kai was his mother – who he’d always lived with – taking a job in Maryland when he was twelve, and he stayed in Charlotte with his Dad, who he’d seen frequently, but only stayed with periodically. He said the change in parental styles was a very different world, that it affected him to the point where he got his first ever C’s before he finally figured things out.

So how long did that take? “Like a whole semester!”

I told him about going from Catholic grade school to public school in 8th grade, also getting my first C’s ever. I sloughed off instead of excelling, because I was way ahead at that point. The challenge had been going against the same peer group for better grades – get one wrong on a test, they had a better A.

In Kai’s case, he didn’t recognize the strength of having gotten BACK to all A’s so quickly. I was not the same student in that environment, but in his self-grading, he’d messed up. In describing how he put together a booklet for National Honor Society, he breezed past the fact 1) He did the app early, so it wouldn’t be hanging over him and 2) once he knew what they were looking for and how the process went, he began helping others put their stuff together.

Those he helped referred him to others, sometimes he gets paid for tutoring.

There HAS to be room in any essay for something like that.

Note to others: Just because you’re writing *about* yourself, doesn’t mean you need to include extraneous material that causes readers to think negatively. Keep any story simple, centered.

Something to help everyone

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This is the schizzle as an aid to all essay writers.

A Scoring Rubric for Scholarship Essay Questions was such a good, specific thing to have handed out, I don’t think there can be anything wrong with including it here.

There are four categories, based on point values (10,5,1,0).  The “quality” of the content is considered in terms of progressive excellence in structure and story-telling

’10’ is for what would be considered an Exceptional answer, based on five criteria, such as having a strong central focus to the answer, with sentences clear and varied, using appropriate vocabulary, complete sentences, and minimal mechanical errors.

5 point “qualities” would include using appropriate details, with clear and correct sentence structure and revealing some “character,” again with few mechanical errors.

0 Points, not meeting expectations – Not answering the question, little development of the topic (short answers), the POV is confusing instead of recognizing the sense of “audience” they might be writing to, and punctuation, slang, text style, undeniably not proofread.

While consistently making myself available for events like this and some elementary school reading programs, it still feels great to impart long-term expertise so cleanly with a one-one focus.

A personal philosophy is to not try lifting all of society a gazillionth of an inch, but when kids put in extra time to improve their skills – and its the reason I love Hugh O’Brian Youth’s three-day leadership program – I’ll try passing along some best practices.

In Yogi’s words, “Hey hey, Boo-Boo, now you’re smarter than the average writer too!”

  Picture 
Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 
(704) 502-9947

“Smarter than…” a simple line easily remembered

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START posting meaningful articles, videos, podcasts, or blog posts. Put them on LinkedIn, your blog site, link to them from your FB and Twitter accounts, etc. Again, to qualify as meaningful, in this context, they need to display that you are a good person AND you have valuable professional knowledge and skills that will benefit others.

This message implies that your skills and knowledge will benefit potential employers. Some of your posts may tell stories from your work history where your past employer benefited greatly from your exploits. (Tom Sheppard – Playing Hard to Get, 11/07/19)

Periodically, with alllll the possibilities that doing even a little online surfing can provide, there is a “thank you” moment for tapping a YouTube environmental piece, learning exactly all you need to know about a specific something, maybe reading the rest of what wrapped around the essence of being a better blogger, according to Mr. Sheppard.

If its not ‘Good to Great’ (Collins) or ‘The ONE Thing’ (Gary Keller) management theory writ strong, Sheppard is around my mantra that pretty much everything that goes online or is presented in response to any gig is a small referendum on my abilities.

SEO content writing doesn’t have to be above eighth grade level, but whatever the purpose, my regular job is hitting the voice a potential client wants. Yes,  bloggers will tell historical stories that match well with situations where “fixing” similar pain resulted.  Readers want “meaningful.”

That is elemental marketing – I’ve got what you need. Just lookie here.

A simple line everyone remembers

The last line on my business card is “Smarter than the average bear” writer, and everyone I’ve given it to knows the basics – Yogi stole all the picnic baskets in JellyStone Park. The variety of situations I’ve adapted “writing” to is far less than Matt Damon’s creativeness with technology in ‘The Martian,’ but I’m confident about being ahead of the one-trick bear is the explanation I lock in.

Does everything I do have to glow with imperial splendor? Naaah, but it does represent me. I’ve just recently started working with video, and you can Google how to do anything, right? That’s another line everyone remembers, “You can Google that.” My youngest brother hits sixty this year, over the last three years, he’s relied on that in becoming a damn fine worker on BMWs. Just sayin’…

Capturing the simple makes a difference

In a couple weeks, the second time around with a Communities in Schools program, I’ll be helping high school seniors who have already been accepted to a college write better letters for scholarship money.  This is about passing on the idea of how capturing the simple makes a difference.

We all know people skim instead of read, right?

Readability counts. How shorter paragraphs break up large blocks of print, give the readers eyes a break, that’s easy to impart. “Use periods” is obviously useful to remember, and stopping the 6-comma, train-of-thought-OMG! run-on sentence is ALWAYS better writing.

Yes, one liners and subheads can be effective.

The Communities in Schools program where imparting some nuggets of editing and making things work better word-wise is a Keep It Straight, Simple moment for me. Getting tapped to help goes directly to my expertise, and its a four-hour session with these kids that includes hot breakfast during meet-and-greet. Last year, about two dozen showed up, and there were enough volunteers that we could double up. 

One scholarship my person (Rachel) picked as a possibility was LAWA (Latin Americans Working for Achievement) – and I knew I had the Executive Director’s business card on my desk. Watching my suggestions being immediately incorporated into her standard letter, hearing how this super-smart girl wanted to eventually lead a Doctors Without Borders unit, it was elementary to write a letter of recommendation for her.

That’s how simple things can be. Mr. Sheppard struck a chord for me. If the possibility of volunteering is what you got from this piece, that’s worth thinking about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From story reading to community org’s, well-delivered messages work wonders

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Wednesday morning was the second time I’ve had the opportunity to prepare a ten-minute reading for the summer school program at Oakhurst STEAM Academy.  What they call a Harambee reader, is part of a half-hour psyche-up session for about fifty seven-eight-nine year olds.

The picture book I read – about an eight-year old boy learning to play lacrosse – was built around an Aesop’s Fables-type moral about “dependability.”  Reading enthusiastically was a reminder of the SHOWTIME! of doing group kickoffs for three years in the scholastic fundraising days.

More directly, reading at Oakhurst stemmed from being aware of the Chetty Study, a Harvard/UC Berkeley project that correlated a link between 4th grade literacy and economic mobility.  Economic mobility is how many children rise from the bottom of one economic quadrille to the top of it as an adult. That study showed Charlotte, NC has the lowest ranking (4.4%) of the largest fifty US cities, so it became an obvious place to put old SHOWTIME! abilities to good use.

My bottom-line in volunteering for short, meaningful opportunities to help with reading and writing is always, “Never let it be said…”

That the male voice was appreciated as such a significant factor in this setting wasn’t lost on the previous days reader, Steve Echenique, or myself, because the Freedom School sponsors regularly say its a presence the kids simply don’t get often enough. Bearded college volunteers are one thing, men with ties, yeah, it’s a different visual that counts.

These are actually the luckier kids, both because this program of two-3 week sessions takes some edge off the “knowledge drop” summer often brings, and there is a cereal and biscuit, milk/juice, fruit cup breakfast to start the day with.

For parents who don’t always know whether their kids are touched by enough of the right information you’ve tried providing for situations that may come,  this audience raised their hands and responded. Having that level of connection with an energized and attentive group, it *should* put a little hop in your day.

Eye contact is at a premium in such presentations. 99% of the time, moving through your group and not just pontificating from behind a podium works best.

Having introduced the idea of writing this story for them based on Aesop’s “morals,” and shown them the covers of the binder really had nothing to do with the 8-year old boy in my story, two girls provided the correct moral, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Extend  the positive vibe

Giving some attaboys! to the counselors here, or volunteers at other events, is a legitimate way for speakers to extend  the positive impact of physically being there. Practice your good communications skills someplace besides a networking event. See who looks you in the eye, can articulate their young person ideas, knows why they’re there at 8 a.m. in the middle of June.

One-to-ones with a couple college students in this situation is a freebie – (almost) everyone likes talking about themselves – and nothings lost if you don’t get an impressive response.

Having participated in several Communities in Schools “social capital” programs this spring, complimenting high school students on their speaking without “umms, errs, y’knows” as out of the ordinary – and a factor easily noticed by adult others – was definitely a simple, effective teaching moment.

Communications: Oyster Roast meeting

Even as a homogeneous group of older guys in a community projects organization, it took over two hours to work through operational Q&A regarding our 5th annual Oyster Roast Wednesday night.

Oyster Roast is a mature product – we were tweaking things, not debating whether an idea will accomplish certain financial goals, or whether to attempt it at all. When 16 guys show up mid-week though, its a good problem to have a quantity-quality number of opinions in steering the club.

After working with friends and members on dozens of similar projects over the years, you develop a sort of shorthand communication,  where a nod, thumbs up, or quick comment lets them know you’re clear on/in favor of what they just discussed, even if others might still be talking.

That doesn’t happen immediately, but having history with individuals usually makes things work easier. The fact we often view opportunities and challenges with very similar results-oriented reasoning or career training, is an organizational strength to draw on.

When it came to how the low-country boil is done for the Oyster Roast, the President answered as the man responsible for that aspect of four previous OR’s. The Community Development VP ticked off his list of pricing, marketing, and What abouts? as the guy who brought the unique idea to start with, and welcomes input like this to tweak the positives.

Finally, its elementally a 1-1 world. Speaking with the Prez about a specific lack of cooperation related to donuts at Meet & Greets after the official meeting, he said a roadblock for several years has been mostly negotiated with a parish official. The results, more suited to our needs without making a single change in an established system, was good news to end the day.

That operational block had bothered me for a while, and now its been pretty well fixed. Hurrah! for good communications.

Picture 
Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talents Enterprises 
(704) 502-9947