Creative Nonfiction

Things I Carry - Jalen Henderson

If you pay attention, you can get to know a person fairly well by looking at the things they carry. I carry many things: a bookbag, my phone, a frisbee, ice on my wrist. All of these things can tell you something about me, whether it's what I do, what I like, or what my personality is like. Although you may be able to make assumptions based on the things I physically carry, you can truly know me by the things I emotionally and mentally carry. I like to imagine everyone as the Great Barrier Reef. Look up images of the ocean surface of the Great Barrier Reef. It looks like every other part of the Pacific. There is nothing wrong with it, but nothing interesting either. Now look up images of the Great Barrier Reef underwater. It looks beautiful doesn't it? That's exactly how people are.

Some things I carry below surface are the need to fulfill the high academic expectations set by my parents, insecurity, and the small feeling of being overwhelmed. Loyola is awesome, and I love it here, but it is a huge change from my old school. I attended Cardinal Shehan School from preschool to eighth grade. My school only had one building, one hall for all of middle school, and only about 350 students. It's very small compared to Loyola, and on top of that, I am the only student of my graduating class who is attending Loyola Blakefield. I didn't know anyone in the beginning of the school year, which is why it was hard for me to socialize with others and express my full personality. Although I am now more comfortable with the Loyola family, I still find myself questioning what people might think of me after I do something outgoing. I often find myself carrying a lot of stress as well. Whether it is from school/grades, not getting enough sleep, or over-thinking simple things, stress is a big contribution to the weight I carry on my back, aside from my gigantic bookbag that I could fit into.

Sometimes the ocean floor can be a very dark place, and sometimes a light in the darkness. You can never judge a person because you never know what they are carrying below the surface. Just by starting a simple conversation, you can meet your best friend, the love of your life, or even save a person's life. Anyone can judge or stereotype someone, but it takes a true friend or caring person to discover what's below the surface. Swimming on the surface is fun, but the real adventure doesn't start until you scuba dive and explore the ocean floor.

Icicles - Randal Gleeson

Loyola Blakefield’s hurt and healing start here. The sun rises on December 14th; the alarm clock’s chime reverberates. My morning routine stalls as my mother rushes in with distress painted on her face. “School’s closed today,” she murmurs. As I sit up, half-asleep, hair tousled, and a puzzled look on my face, my mother interjects, “There has been a racist threat against your school.” Her words hang in the air like the cold icicles dangling from my windowsill. Stunned, I struggle to articulate my thoughts; questions slowly begin dripping out of the corners of my lips—no answers, drip, drip. I read a blunt email offering little explanation from my school: “Teaming with the FBI, the Baltimore Police will continue to investigate this heinous act of racism. School closed indefinitely.” The situation’s severity is deafening—so deafening that I hear a single, clean sheet of icicles crack and crumble from the roof above my frost-glistened window.

The day trudges along without homework assignments, emails, or contact from teachers; days with no work should be effortlessly filled with joy, but here I stand, frozen. Do I meet up with friends or spend time reflecting? It feels wrong to be relaxed, but it seems odd to hang alone. As the eerie, hurtful, and confusing day endures, I finally receive another email from school. Answering no real questions, the email tells the Loyola community to return to school tomorrow. “We are safe,” it reads. The antithetical statements blanket our return to school in a cold and unsure atmosphere. Perhaps I can feel safe, but how do some of my fellow classmates feel? Here I stand, warmly wrapped in a blanket of privilege, but nonetheless still anxious to return to the place I call a second home. The next school day is frigid and unfeeling. Filled with stunned discussions about our feelings, the air has a palpable frost as trembling words cut through the silence just like the brisk crackling of the icicles on my window. The facilitated conversations wrap an ineffective bandage around the gaping wound on our community. Outsiders judge us while insiders grow cooler and more distant. School wears on – our scholastic family in awe of the newly formed chasm in our brotherhood.

With all its twists, turns, drips, and drops, my glacial junior year of high school brings me to challenge a belief or idea: Are communities unbreakable? Before this horrific occurrence, I experienced a warm and comforting sense of community when I walked onto campus. Strolling the same halls, I now look around and see icicles. My school once shared a common interest through service, religion, and education. However, now I see icy glares of uncertainty and frigid fear clutching the walls of our communal home. How could a once strong community feel so weak and frail?

As the school year progresses, however, I notice a change. Winter slowly turns to spring, as time strives to heal the wounds. The ice gradually melts away to reveal patches of bright green grass, sweet-smelling flowers, and warm, highly-anticipated solace. This glacial void cannot close itself. However, throughout the rest of the school year, small, healthy, and unforced discussions take place within groups of friends and mentors. Students create support groups to bring awareness to this scarring situation. Healthy change and healing require time.

As the piercing icicles gradually melt off our community, we work harder and more fervently than ever to create a warm home for every member. Although we should, and do, take comfort in the warmth of society, situations such as this one remind me that cold, frigid icicles still exist in our world today. I pledge to challenge myself to question my beliefs, ideas, and communities around me to constantly move toward the springtime of humanity—without an icicle in sight.

Black History Oratory Competition - Michael Nwafor

“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” — Michelle Obama

When I started my career at Loyola Blakefield, I was extremely ambitious. I went in, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to conquer the academic world. I had plans to be a great student throughout all four years, and then graduate and attend a prestigious college. I entered the high school, and I was hit with reality. I realized that life was not as easy as I had dreamt. Instead of achieving the high grades I had planned, I was struggling to stay afloat. My grades weren’t poor, but they were nowhere near the level I knew they could be. In my eyes, I had failed. I thought had doomed myself to a life of mediocrity, and that I had let my parents down. I was ashamed. I thought all the time and money that they had invested in me had gone to waste. At first, I really let this get to me. I thought of it the instant I woke up in the morning, and it was the last thing I thought about at night.

For the first week or two of summer, it really dragged my spirits down. But after a while, I began to think seriously about my situation. I began to look at it, not as a moment of disappointment, but as a moment of learning. Yes, freshman year had been a challenge, but I promised myself I would take this bump in the road and learn from it, and use it to motivate myself the next year. The next year, I came back and completed the year with all A’s. It wasn’t because I was the smartest kid in the class, or the kid with the photographic memory; it was because I was the most motivated. I had seen the bottom, and I never wanted to see it again. This motivated me to work continuously hard throughout the year to overcome and surpass my grades from last year. Looking back on it now, I would not change my grades from last year, even if I had the chance. They provided me with such my inner desire to be better.