By Bella Love
Special to The Islander
When I arrived on my first day of the School of The New York Times, or as the students dubbed it, SONYT, I admit being overwhelmed.
Coming from the tiny community of Anna Maria Island to such a big program full of people who seemed to be so much smarter and more cultured than me was a bit jarring.
After the initial shock, I started talking with the people in my program and realized they were just normal kids with a passion for journalism. Well, normal is a relative term, considering some of those kids had private jets and a list of Ivies for college applications as long as my arm.
The program offered many options for classes, from sports statistics to writing for television. I decided to opt into Fashion, Food Culture and Film.
Once I got to class, I instantly realized the two-week program was going to go by insanely fast.
I’m not always good at paying attention at school, as I usually feel myself zoning out or falling asleep, mostly disinterested during teacher lectures.
However, in my SONYT classes, I was hanging on every word as it flowed from my teacher. For once, I was learning about something I was genuinely interested in, instead of memorizing facts for a grade. I mean, no offense to my geometry teacher, but learning about calculating volume is not even half as interesting as learning about the ins and outs of the fashion industry.
We had the opportunity to do a lot of creative writing in my class, which I had not done since elementary school. Since graduating fifth-grade at Anna Maria Elementary, I’ve been writing informative essay after informative essay.
There was a period in middle school where I thought my brain was going to explode if I had to write another essay on the invasive Burmese pythons. Instead of endlessly researching before I started a paper, at SONYT, I just sat down and wrote whatever came to my mind.
I rediscovered writing — not just a class assignment for the teacher to read — as a creative outlet.
This brought me back to when I first discovered my love for writing in my fourth-grade class with Pidge Taylor at AME. Back then, I was writing about everything and anything that interested me.
Sure, looking back, my writing was pretty terrible, but I absolutely loved it. Being at the School of The New York Times made me feel a genuine love for writing again.
During my class, we heard multiple guest speakers, ranging from the great to the less than amazing. Most of the guest speakers we had were wonderful, but there was one PR person who spent her time trying to convince us we should be going to a restaurant she represented that sold farm-raised fish, which any island native should know is nowhere near as good as fresh-caught fish.
And we heard some incredible guest speakers, like the former Vogue editor who taught us about cultural appropriation in the fashion industry, like how famous white women like Kylie Jenner will copy aspects of black culture and be praised for it, while black women are ridiculed for the same thing. She also helped us see the importance of supporting small, local companies.
There was also the woman who told us about sustainable fashion and the negative effects of fast fashion. By the end of their lectures, I was raising my hand so many times my arm started to hurt.
My experience with the School of The New York Times not only impacted my writing skills, it also made me more confident as a writer. It is something that I can say with certainty will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Bella Love is a sophomore at Manatee High School. She writes for the school newspaper, the Macohi, and is a member of the MHS student council.